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Timely Technology

Enhanced Lung Cancer Treatment at North Central Baptist Hospital

By Amy Morgan

Cancer. It’s a dreaded diagnosis that inspires fears of complicated treatment, pain — even death. But now San Antonians diagnosed with lung cancer have a new, less invasive  to fight this deadly disease. Surgeons at North Central Baptist Hospital in Stone Oak are using the Davinci Robotic System to remove cancers and treat other lung and chest disorders. 


In the past, surgeons would need to open a patient’s chest wall to reach the lungs, resulting in a much longer incision and trauma to the ribs. By 2003, surgeons began using a surgical robot to make four or five smaller incisions to slide a camera and biopsy instruments into the lungs via the space between the ribs. Technology has evolved with the advent of specially designed instruments and high-definition cameras, allowing surgeons to configure the Davinci robot to reduce the number of incisions to just one. 


Physicians specializing in thoracic surgery treat patients at North Central Baptist Hospital with lung and esophageal cancers, nodules, cysts, or masses, as well as thymic tumors. Those physicians were among the first in San Antonio to adopt an innovative robotic system using single-incision thoracoscopic and robotic surgery and have now successfully performed uniportal robotic-assisted thoracoscopic surgery on more than 100 patients at North Central Baptist Hospital. The innovative robotic system allows the removal of cancerous and other lung tumors through a small incision. 

Before a patient is scheduled for treatment, their suspicious nodule or lesion must first be diagnosed. It usually involves a biopsy to rule out cancer or confirm other problems like sarcoidosis, tuberculosis or pneumonitis that appear as shadows on a lung X-ray. As part of its emphasis on lung disease, North Central Baptist Hospital has ramped up its diagnostic capabilities, incorporating the Ion endoluminal system, a robotic-assisted platform for minimally invasive biopsy of the lung. The Ion’s catheter sizing and shape-sensing technology allow better reach, precision, and stability over manual technologies and minimize complication rates. This technology allows the surgeon to more precisely collect lung tissue samples for biopsy safely and simply, even when nodules are tiny and located in very hard to reach locations in the peripheral lung. 


Because the catheter enters the body through the mouth while the patient is sedated, the risk of biopsy complications is extremely low. Other benefits: the doctor can collect samples from more than one nodule, and a pathologist can provide real-time feedback about whether additional tissue needs to be collected to aid diagnosis. The surgeon can also inject fluorescent dye into a nodule, making it easier to locate it during subsequent surgery. 


North Central Baptist also incorporates a nurse navigator to walk patients through their journey from diagnosis to recovery. Providing nurse navigators shows North Central Baptist’s commitment to the physical and emotional well-being and healing of our patients and can help reduce the stress and anxiety of a lung cancer diagnosis. 

North Central Baptist Hospital recently began holding a multi-specialty conference twice a month that brings together representatives from thoracic surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, primary care, radiology, and pathology to discuss best practices for patients diagnosed with lung nodules. 


Despite a difficult diagnosis, San Antonians facing lung disease can rest assured their prognosis for a swift recovery may improve now that innovative technologies are available right in Stone Oak.  

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