GENEVA – For lung lesion biopsy, electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy (ENB) offers high navigational success with a relatively low rate of pneumothorax, according to European data from the international NAVIGATE study.
In addition to lung lesion biopsy, ENB can facilitate concurrent lymph node sampling and fiducial placement during a single anesthetic event, reported lead author, chief of thoracic surgery at Barts Thorax Centre in London, and his colleagues. According to Dr. Lau, who presented at the European Lung Cancer Conference, the findings from this European cohort add weight to previously published data from the NAVIGATE trial, which aims to demonstrate real-world use of ENB.
“The outcomes show that [ENB] is very safe in terms of pneumothorax rate, despite the fact that many of these patients were challenging and actually were turned down by the percutaneous radiologist before they came to us,” Dr. Lau said at the meeting, presented by the European Society for Medical Oncology.
Out of 1,200 patients enrolled in the NAVIGATE trial in the United States and Europe, the present 1-month interim analysis showed experiences with 175 patients treated at eight European centers. Anyone undergoing navigational bronchoscopy was eligible. The primary outcome was pneumothorax rate and the secondary outcome was diagnostic yield.
Data analysis showed that lesions were most frequently in the upper lobe (62.6%) and in the peripheral third of the lung (72.7%), the latter of which is beyond the reach of a conventional bronchoscope. In two out of three patients (66.8%), a bronchus sign was present, which “means that the bronchoscope runs straight into the lesion, and theoretically means it’s easier to access,” Dr. Lau said. Almost all patients had ENB for lung biopsy (99.4%), while in a small minority (8.0%), ENB was used for fiducial marking. The median total procedure time was 43.5 minutes, of which 32.9 minutes were spent navigating and sampling with ENB.
The ENB-related pneumothorax rate was 7.4%, although a slightly lower percentage, 5.1%, required intervention or hospitalization. According to the ENB-related Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events, 2.3% of patients had grade 2 or higher bronchopulmonary hemorrhage and 0.6% of patients had grade 4 or higher respiratory failure. Although the secondary endpoint, diagnostic yield, was not met because of inadequate follow-up time, the navigational success rate, defined as access to the intended lung lesion, was 96.6%, which offers some sense of efficacy.
“The purpose of this study is to show that [ENB] is very safe,” Dr. Lau said in an interview. “And the numbers are significantly better than historic CT-guided biopsy data.”
Considering the choice between ENB and CT-guided biopsy, invited discussant, of Maastricht University, the Netherlands, offered a different viewpoint.
“CT-guided biopsies are low cost ... and the sensitivity is very, very high,” Dr. Dingemans said. “In good hands, with a good radiologist, you have a high chance that you will have a good diagnosis of the nodules.” She also noted that a bronchus sign does not impact efficacy.
“I’m very into CT-guided biopsies,” Dr. Dingemans continued, noting that the radiologist at her treatment center takes biopsies with a 10-gauge large-core needle. With this technique, Dr. Dingemans reported a 5.7% pneumothorax rate, which is comparable with the present NAVIGATE data.
However, Dr. Lau contested this figure.
“The pneumothorax rates [for CT-guided biopsy] in larger studies have always been about 20% to 40%,” Dr. Lau said. “You can’t compare large overall practice in a pragmatic study capturing everyone versus one single center. The truth is, most centers will have a 20% pneumothorax rate.”
Dr. Lau added that patient experiences are likely to be better with ENB than with CT-guided percutaneous biopsy.
“To me, patient comfort for biopsy is essential,” Dr. Lau said. “Having a needle stuck into your chest – it’s very uncomfortable. I’ve had patients who’ve come to me after they had a percutaneous biopsy and who for some reason needed a re-biopsy ... those patients almost always wish they had navigational bronchoscopy the first time because there would be no pain for them.”
When asked about capital cost concerns surrounding ENB, Dr. Lau suggested that the benefits outweigh the costs.
“The most expensive procedure is the one you have to do again,” Dr. Lau said. “So what we do is put a brush in, and a needle, and a biopsy, and hopefully, one of those three, if not all three, gets tissue, and we can do that with navigational bronchoscopy because there is one channel down. You can’t repeatedly stick needles into patients. By definition, you can’t throw three needle jabs, because you will get a 90% pneumothorax rate. And that’s the beauty of navigational bronchoscopy as well, because in the NAVIGATE series, a number of patients, about 10%, had multiple lesions biopsied.” Furthermore, Dr. Lau noted, percutaneous biopsy is “almost never” performed bilaterally, for fear of collapsing both lungs, but this is not the case with ENB. “We’ve done it on patients who have one lung,” he said.
Dr. Lau predicted that costs of ENB will come down with time. “Because of the number of products increasing, the price will drop,” he said.
Concluding the interview, Dr. Lau offered a summarizing message: “If you want to give the patient the safe option, you should do [ENB], and when it becomes more popular, the price will fall,” he said.
Medtronic funded the study. The investigators reported financial relationships with Olympus, Ambu, PulmonX, Boston Scientific, and others.
SOURCE: Lau et al. ELCC 2019. .