State-of-the-art equipment revolutionises diagnosis of lung cancer

Monday, 29 November 2010

Southmead has become the first hospital in the west of England to take delivery of a state-of-the-art new piece of equipment that will make some forms of lung cancer much easier to diagnose and stage.

It will also reduce the need for more invasive diagnostic and staging tests some of which are performed in other hospitals off site, and speed up the patient journey.

The £140,000 funding for the endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) equipment has come via North Bristol NHS Trust’s charity ‘Shine together’ and is its first major purchase since being launched earlier this year.

Every year around 250 patients (and increasing annually) receive care for lung cancer at Southmead and Frenchay hospitals.

Many lung cancers are difficult to diagnose and investigate as they are not visible in the airway using a standard bronchoscope (a small flexible camera inserted via the nose or mouth) but only in the mediastinum (the tissues/glands in the centre of the chest between the lungs).

Mediastinal masses or glands in patients with suspected lung cancer are normally detected on imaging studies such as CT scanning, which is usually performed in suspected lung cancer.

The next step is often to obtain tissue to both make a diagnosis, stage the cancer and to make treatment decisions. Before EBUS, for patients with mediastinal masses/glands and suspected lung cancer, this would often require travel to the Bristol Royal Infirmary for a procedure called a mediastinoscopy which samples the lymph glands in the mediastinum and is performed by a thoracic surgeon, carried out under general anaesthetic which occasionally involved an overnight stay.

The new EBUS equipment has streamlined the patient journey so that in a lot of cases now, the sampling for lymph nodes can be done under conscious sedation and local anaesthetic by a trained respiratory physician.

The procedure is less invasive than mediastinoscopy and takes less time.

It is done as a day case and on site at Southmead Hospital, reducing travel time for North Bristol patients.

Dr Andrew Medford, Consultant Chest Physician, said: “We are incredibly grateful to ‘Shine together’ for purchasing this fantastic piece of equipment for the North Bristol Lung Centre.

“Many lung cancers are not visible or accessible during standard flexible bronchoscopy resulting in a non-diagnostic test.

"EBUS is a significant technological advance to the current and well established flexible bronchoscopy service offered at North Bristol NHS Trust. 

“EBUS involves the use of a specially adapted bronchoscope and ultrasound machine to provide, for the first time, ‘real time’ images of lymph nodes within the patient’s mediastinum while sampling them.

"This will allow us to reduce the time to diagnosis and treatment and avoid the need for mediastinoscopy in or other diagnostic tests for some patients.

“Additionally, the EBUS technique has also been used in the diagnosis of other benign and treatable lung conditions including tuberculosis and sarcoidosis.”

Trevor Reid from the North Bristol NHS Trust ‘Shine together’ charity said: “We are so pleased to be able to make this donation of £140,000 for the EBUS system which we know will help hundreds of our patients every year.

“This is our first significant purchase of equipment since ‘Shine together’ was launched in April and it is thanks to the support of many local people that we are able to make this donation.

"We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has helped us this year and made a real difference to the care we provide.”