PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — GPS is pretty common on our dashboards, but doctors are now using similar technology in lungs.

Tim Bachurski was dealing with a lung spot on a chest x-ray. A CT scan revealed that it was cancer.

They needed to perform a biopsy, but the tumor was in the narrow branches of the air passages.

“In order to get a diagnosis, all the conventional ways to do it – most of them are invasive, risky, painful to the patient,” Dr. Richard Maley, a thoracic surgeon with St. Clair Hospital, said.

Using an electromagnetic sensor coupled with 3D images reconstructed from CT scans, an even thinner tube is threaded through a bronchoscope to get to the hard-to-reach lesions with guidance much like GPS instructing the doctor.

“Instead of going in through my back, or you know, cutting me, they went straight down my throat,” Tim said.

“Then we do our biopsies and brushings and washings and it’s improved the yield from about a third up to at least about 80 percent in getting a diagnosis,” Dr. Maley said.

“He said, ‘If you’re going to have cancer Tim, you do have one of the better types.’

“Naturally, that made me feel better,” he said.

Bleeding and lung collapse can still occur with the new technique, but it is rare. Dr. Maley has done about 20 cases like this since June.

The equipment and technology do add to the cost of each case. Insurance coverage varies.

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