The superDimension/Bronchus could allow bronchoscope-based procedures in 80 percent of lung biopsies, up from about 50 percent today. Every year, roughly three million people worldwide face the ordeal of undergoing a lung biopsy.

Usually doctors perform the procedure using bronchoscopes – instruments that are snaked into the lungs that carry tiny cameras and surgical tools.

Using the bronchoscope means the biopsy can be done with minimal danger and trauma to the patient. However the majority of suspected lung lesions are situated in the peripheral areas of the lungs where the bronchoscope itself cannot reach. Consequently success rates are low and false rates are common. The patient is often left to choose between repeat bronchoscopy or alternative, high-risk invasive procedures.

Now, an Israeli company has provided a solution to this problem by developing a system for visually tracking the locations of bronchoscopes used in lung biopsies. The image-processing and guidance technology, called the superDimension/Bronchus was patented last year by superDimension of Herzliya, Israel, and could allow the use of bronchoscopes in far more lung biopsies.

SuperDimension/Bronchus enhances traditional bronchoscopy by making it possible to reach peripheral target lesions with far greater confidence and accuracy. The company says that if all goes well, the technology could allow bronchoscope-based procedures in 80 percent of lung biopsies, up from about 50 percent today.

If that prediction holds true, and the technology becomes universally available,
nearly one million people would be spared major lung surgery every year.

“With today’s practice, many times we can see the problem, but we can’t get to it. With this new technique, we can actually go there and see where we are, where we need to be, and which path to take to get us to our target,” David Feller-Kopman, a pulmonary specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, told the MIT Technological Review. “It is the future of bronchoscopy.”

The system generates 3-D images from pre-operative CT scans of the patient’s lungs, creating a roadmap of the lungs. This “roadmap” then tracks the movement and location of a sensor located at the tip of a dedicated tool that is inserted through the bronchoscope. The sensor’s movements and position are overlaid in real-time onto the virtual 3D image of the lungs, allowing the physician to navigate through the once unreachable areas of the patient’s lungs.

SuperDimension/Bronchus is fully compatible with any standard bronchoscope and bronchoscopic tool. The system is used in a regular bronchscopy suite, and its use involves no significant change to the traditional method for performing bronchoscopy.

Every year, MIT’s Technology Review magazine researches thousands of new patents and selects the top five that it believes will have the most profound impact on our world today.

This year, the magazine recognized the superDimension/Bronchus system as one of 2003’s top five “Killer Patents” – the only healthcare related company among the distinguished five.

The superDimension/Bronchus system was chosen for developing an answer to one of the most critical needs in the field of pulmonology: minimally invasive access to peripheral lung locations.

“We are thrilled that our system has been recognized by MIT’s Technology Review to be of such potential. We look forward to offering millions of patients worldwide a truly minimally invasive and effective alternative to more invasive procedures.” said David Tolkowsky, CEO of superDimension.

When superDimension presented the superDimension/Bronchus system earlier this year at the Advanced Diagnostic Bronchoscopy CME course organized by Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, the accolades were similar.

“By enabling bronchoscopists to access the peripheral regions of the lungs with more ease, superDimension/Bronchus broadens the possibility for bronchoscopists to perform successful diagnostic procedures. In addition, lymph node needle aspiration will surely be revolutionized by means of this system,” stated Dr. Atul Mehta, head of Bronchology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

“SuperDimension will undoubtedly change the future of diagnostic bronchoscopy. No CME course discussing bronchoscopy would be complete without featuring superDimension/Bronchus,” said Dr. Armin Ernst, program director and Director of Interventional Pulmonology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

SuperDimension’s currently has about 40 employees worldwide with its headquarters based near Tel Aviv. European distribution headquarters are located in Düsseldorf, Germany.

The superDimension/Bronchus system has recently received CE Mark approval, and is now used in Germany and other German speaking countries. An FDA submission is in process.