Ascension Via Christi acquires region's first robot for performing minimally invasive peripheral lung biopsies | Ascension

Ascension Via Christi acquires region's first robot for performing minimally invasive peripheral lung biopsies

Lung cancer, when discovered while still small and localized, can be curable, which is why Ascension Via Christi is investing in new lung cancer programs, services and technology, such as its new robotic-assisted platform that can locate and reach nodules as small as 8 millimeters.

Ascension Medical Group Via Christi interventional pulmonologist Thamer Sartawi, MD.

Intuitive's ION robot can reach areas of the lung not achievable with previous tools and procedures to collect tissue samples from small nodules.

"Some patients have limited avenues for identifying the cause of their abnormal lung lesions," says interventional pulmonologist Thamer Sartawi, MD, who on Thursday, Nov. 3, became the first to use Ascension Via Christi St. Francis' newly acquired ION robot to perform minimally invasive peripheral lung biopsies for two patients for whom a CT-guided biopsy was not a viable option.

"For these patients, the ION system provides an excellent alternative with a lower risk for complications, allowing us to safely diagnose cancer at an earlier stage and with a great deal of confidence," says Dr. Sartawi.

In turn, this allows patients to get treatment started sooner, which studies have shown to lead to better outcomes.

Toward that end, Ascension Via Christi Cancer Center added a second dedicated lung cancer nurse navigator to its Wichita-based Cancer Outreach and Risk Assessment team, which last year coordinated low-dose CT lung cancer screenings for more than 1,300 patients.

In August, Ascension Via Christi opened a lung nodule clinic on its St. Francis hospital campus, where a multidisciplinary team of lung and cancer specialists work together to develop and quickly implement a treatment plan for patients with cancerous lung lesions.

“We're continuing to build upon our position as a regional Center of Excellence for treating lung cancer," says cardio-thoracic surgeon Brett Grizzell, MD, who serves as medical director for Ascension Via Christi’s low-dose CT lung screening program. "The lung nodule clinic was an important step in ensuring patients’ access to prevention and treatment.”

Dr. Grizzell and Ascension Medical Group Via Christi pulmonologist Abed Abu-Samra, MD, serve as co-medical directors for the lung nodule clinic, working closely with Dr. Sartawi, the third member of the multidisciplinary team.

Ascension Via Christi's Wichita hospitals soon will take delivery of a new EON imaging software system, which uses computational linguistics to identify incidental pulmonary nodules and other relevant findings on computed tomography, magnetic resonance and X-ray radiology reports.

"Using this software with all upper body diagnostic imaging performed at our Wichita hospitals is one more way for us to detect lung cancers at their earliest and most treatable stages," says Dr. Abu-Samra. "For patients with incidental findings, it can make a potentially life-saving difference."

Patients determined to need further evaluation will be referred by their nurse navigator to the lung nodule clinic for follow-up.

"It is all part of a coordinated effort to identify lung cancers earlier and develop and implement customized plans of treatment sooner," says Keisha Humphries, director of Oncology Services for Ascension Via Christi. "The goal is more lung cancer survivors and an improved quality of life following a lung cancer diagnosis and treatment."

Learn more about lung cancer care at Ascension Via Christi by visiting