Michael Pritchett, D.O.
PINEHURST – Thanks to a disbursement from the Moore Regional Hospital Foundation, state-of-the-art technology that provides a safer and more accurate diagnosis of lung cancer and other diseases of the chest will soon be available at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.
Endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) and electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy are currently available only at major academic medical centers in North Carolina. The $235,000 disbursement to purchase the equipment for Moore Regional Hospital was recently approved by the Board of Trustees of the Moore Regional Hospital Foundation.
“Our Foundation is committed to funding improvements to Moore Regional Hospital that enhance FirstHealth’s core purpose, to care for people,” says Howie Pierce, chair of the Foundation’s Grant Review Committee. “With this new technology, we will have the opportunity to care for people who previously had fewer options for diagnosis and treatment. I can’t think of a more appropriate use of Foundation resources.”
According to Michael Pritchett, D.O., a board certified pulmonologist with FirstHealth’s Chest Center of the Carolinas and Pinehurst Medical Clinic, the new technology gives Moore Regional “a significant technological leg-up” in its ability to diagnose diseases of the chest.
“We can use these tools together to improve the process of diagnosing, staging and treating lung cancer and other diseases,” he says.
Because of the difficulty in reaching the outer or peripheral areas of the lungs, lung disease can be especially difficult to diagnose and stage. (Staging measures the extent of the disease and determines treatment options and prognosis.)
More than half of lung targets are not accessible by conventional technology because of the narrowing branches of the bronchial airways and due to difficulties with equipment orientation and maneuverability. Because of this, many times a biopsy is done from the outside by sticking a needle between the ribs and into the lung. This carries an increased chance of causing the lung to collapse, which may require more invasive treatments and a hospital stay.
EBUS offers a way to look through the airways using sound waves and provides a safer and less invasive way of sampling lymph nodes in the chest. It also offers an excellent view of large blood vessels close by and enables physicians to access nodes not previously felt to be safe to biopsy. It can also access lymph nodes that are out of reach of the usual surgical approach.
Electromagnetic navigation allows the physician to access all areas of the lungs and chest using a “GPS-like” navigation system based on the patient’s own CT scan of the chest. The process provides real-time images in three-dimensional format, allowing physicians to diagnose peripheral lesions, biopsy lymph nodes and prepare to treat the problem in one procedure.
“These technologies are safer, less invasive and offer improved accuracy compared to the current strategies,” says Dr. Pritchett. “They also increase the likelihood of diagnosing lung cancer at an earlier stage when there are potentially curative treatments and the prognosis is much more favorable.”
Currently, more than half of the people diagnosed with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed. “This is because it’s usually diagnosed at an advanced stage and that’s something we want to try to change,” Dr. Pritchett says.
A common procedure to biopsy lymph nodes in the chest to determine the stage of disease is a surgery called mediatinoscopy, which requires a small incision to be made in the neck just above or next to the breastbone. A scope is inserted through the opening to provide access to the lymph nodes.
While this method achieves great success in sampling the lymph nodes, it is invasive, has limited reach and requires general anesthesia. However, EBUS procedures are done in an outpatient setting with light sedation and local anesthesia. EBUS can reach lymph nodes that cannot be reached with the surgical approach. It is performed by a pulmonologist or a thoracic surgeon.
Complications are rare, and patients generally recover quickly and go home the same day.
Both Dr. Pritchett and Andy Kiser, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon, have been trained to do the procedures at Moore Regional.
“Endobronchial ultrasound and electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy will allow us to be on the cutting edge of the diagnosis and staging of diseases of the chest,” Dr. Pritchett says.
Other MRH Foundation disbursements
The Moore Regional Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees has also approved the following disbursements:
- $57,000 to the Cancer CARE Fund for medication, transportation and other assistance to cancer patients
- $25,000 to FirstHealth’s Clinical Trials program for stroke patients
- $4,538 to Women & Children’s Services for the purchase of a birthing simulator for staff training
- $2,281 to the Behavioral CARE Fund for clinical education
- $4,500 to the operating room for clinical education
- $44,800 to Patient Care administration to provide a part-time registered nurse to coordinate Magnet Nursing activities on the Richmond Memorial campus as a preliminary to Magnet re-designation
For additional information on the Moore Regional Hospital Foundation or to support health care in this community, call the Foundation of FirstHealth at (910) 695-7500.
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