Fort Sanders Regional to Perform Robotic-Assisted Lung Biopsies

Minimally Invasive Technology Detects Lung Cancer Earlier

robotic-assisted lung biopsy machine

Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center is pleased to announce the addition of a robotic-assisted bronchoscopy platform for minimally invasive lung biopsies. This technology is first of its kind in East Tennessee and will allow specially trained Fort Sanders Regional physicians to obtain tissue samples in deep regions of the lung, where many early stage tumors are found.

“Fort Sanders Regional was the first in the region to offer robotic-assisted technology for our surgery patients nearly 18 years ago,” said Keith Altshuler, president and chief administrative officer of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. “As we continue to enhance our services and provide the best care possible for our community, we’re proud to add the robotic bronchoscopy platform to our options for diagnosing lung cancer.”

The shape-sensing robotic assisted bronchoscopy features an ultra-thin, ultra-maneuverable catheter that allows navigation by the physician far into the peripheral lung, and provides additional stability and precision needed for biopsy compared to manual techniques.

As with other robotic-assisted surgery platforms, the physician is in complete control of the robot and navigates to the target along a planned path. The catheter can move 180 degrees in any direction to pass through small, difficult-to-navigate airways and around tight bends. The robot’s peripheral vision probe provides direct vision during navigation.

Once the pulmonary nodule is reached, the catheter locks in place and a flexible biopsy needle passes through the catheter. After advancing around the bends of the catheter, the needle deploys into the target location on a straight path.

“This technology revolutionizes how we approach lung nodules – it’s like GPS for the lungs. It will allow us to reach peripheral areas of the lungs that were difficult or impossible to reach before,” Varun Shah, MD, interventional pulmonologist, said. “Ultimately, we’ll be able to diagnose lung cancer earlier and start treatment earlier, providing more opportunity for a successful outcome.”

“Lung nodules are often found in difficult-to-access locations,” David B. Graham, MD, FACS, a thoracic surgeon at Fort Sanders Regional, said. “This new equipment allows our specialized pulmonologists to obtain an earlier, more accurate diagnosis. Finding lung cancer earlier allows for sooner treatment and, therefore, better patient outcomes.  I’m excited about the benefits for our lung nodule patients here in Knoxville.” 

The hospital expects to perform its first lung biopsies with the endoluminal system in mid-February.

Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, a member of Knoxville-based Covenant Health, is a 541-bed regional referral center for neurology, neurosurgery, orthopedics, oncology, cardiology, obstetrics and rehabilitation medicine. For more information, visit


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