Lung Bronchoscope Finds Unexpected Use at Fort Sanders Regional

A little ingenuity and a lot of experience can help nail the solution to an unusual problem. Varun Shah, MD, an interventional pulmonologist at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center recently used robotic bronchoscopy to remove a nail from a man’s lung.

The patient, Marshall Badger, 74, unknowingly inhaled the small nail when he fell from a ladder while hanging Christmas lights at his home in Pikeville, TN. That was in December 2022, and by March 2023, Badger was dealing with unexplained, frequent congestion and a metallic odor in his breath.

When the nail was finally discovered in an X-ray, Dr. Shah knew instantly that the answer could be the same innovative robotic technology he uses for early detection of lung cancer.

“It was perfectly set within a bronchial wall and airway wall,” Dr. Shah says. “I was certain I could go down that deep, which I’ve done before, pull it out, and save the patient from surgery.”

A video of the nail extraction from the patient’s lung.

Badger’s breathing was briefly paused so Dr. Shah, with metal graspers that are routinely used for lung biopsies, could swiftly and safely get the job done. The procedure took about 10 minutes and Badger was able to recover more quickly than he would have from lung surgery.

“Instantly,” Badger says, “I mean I was okay when I left the hospital that day.”

Within a few days, Badger was active again, enjoying his grandkids and going for a run. Dr. Shah also notes there was a time not too long ago when the outcome might have been completely different.

“This device wasn’t around three to four years ago,” Dr. Shah says. “If this injury happened earlier, Marshall would’ve had to undergo a full surgical procedure rather than a 10-minute extraction.”

Badger still has the nail, a reminder of what could have been a devastating lung injury and a painful procedure. It’s also a reminder of the technology that may have saved his life.

Learn more about the advanced lung care Fort Sanders Regional offers here.

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