Diagnostic bronchoscopy--current and future perspectives
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide. Standard bronchoscopy has limited ability to accurately localise and biopsy pulmonary lesions that cannot be directly visualised. The field of advanced diagnostic bronchoscopy is rapidly evolving due to advances in electronics and miniaturisation. Bronchoscopes with smaller outer working diameters, coupled with miniature radial and convex ultrasound probes, allow accurate central and peripheral pulmonary lesion localisation and biopsy while at the same time avoiding vascular structures. Increases in computational processing power allow three-dimensional reconstruction of computed tomographic raw data to enable virtual bronchoscopy (VB), providing the bronchoscopist with a preview of the bronchoscopy prior to the procedure. Navigational bronchoscopy enables targeting of peripheral pulmonary lesions (PPLs) via a “roadmap”, similar to in-car global positioning systems. Analysis of lesions on a cellular level is now possible with techniques such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) and confocal microscopy (CM). All these tools will hopefully allow earlier and safer lung cancer diagnosis and in turn better patient outcomes. This article describes these new bronchoscopic techniques and reviews the relevant literature.