Saint John’s newly acquired surgical tool allows for minimally invasive lung biopsies

February 23, 2022

Ion, a robot-assisted system, can reach all 18 areas of lung

SANTA MONICA – Providence Saint John’s Health Center recently completed its first lung biopsy with the newly acquired and minimally invasive Ion endoluminal system, a robot-assisted surgical tool that allows physicians to obtain tissue samples from deep within the lung.

The Ion system features an ultra-thin, maneuverable catheter that provides surgeons the ability to reach far into the lung with more stability and precision compared to manual techniques.

“Adding the Ion system to Saint John’s is not only huge for our health center, but for our patients as well,” said Robert McKenna, M.D., director of minimally invasive chest surgery and thoracic surgical oncology at Providence Saint John’s. “The goal for any procedure, especially those that involve the lung, is to provide the necessary treatment in the least-invasive manner. When it comes to lung biopsies, the Ion system allows us to do exactly that.”

During the bronchoscopy, a physician uses the system’s controller to navigate the catheter to the targeted area in the lung along a planned pathway. The catheter can move 180 degrees in any direction to pass through small, difficult-to-navigate airways and around tight bends to reach all 18 segments of the lung.

Ion’s peripheral vision probe provides direct vision during navigation. Once the pulmonary nodule is reached, the catheter locks into place. A flexible biopsy needle then passes through the catheter and into the lung mass.

“Lung cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, but it can be cured with high success when it is detected early,” Dr. McKenna said.

While lung cancer is the leading cause of all cancer deaths, the five-year survival rate when diagnosed at the earliest stage (IA-1) is 92%. “Lung cancer screening can detect early stage cancers and the ION can diagnose these small tumors.”

Providence Saint John’s acquisition of the Ion system adds to an already impressive array of robot-assisted surgical tools that are found at the Santa Monica-based health center, including the Da Vinci XI, another robot-assisted surgical system capable of multi-quadrant procedures in the areas of gynecology, urology, thoracic, cardiac and general surgery.

“The Ion system allows for more precision, more reach, more stability,” Dr. McKenna said. “It is another amazing asset for us to deliver the best overall surgical care possible.”

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