Erin DeBiasi, MD, is an interventional pulmonologist who performs procedures to diagnose and treat a variety of pulmonary diseases. These tests include bronchoscopies, which are used to diagnose lung problems in people who have a chronic cough or infection, or who have had an abnormal finding on a chest X-ray or other imaging test.
“The field of interventional pulmonary is relatively new in the grand scheme of medicine, and it has really taken off in the past 10 years or so,” Dr. DeBiasi says. “We're constantly evolving with new tools that allow us to achieve greater accuracy in our biopsy results and provide less risk for the patients.”
Lung biopsies often provoke anxiety for patients. “Sometimes, they're scared and don't know what's going on. All they know is that something abnormal was seen on a scan of theirs,” Dr. DeBiasi says. “It helps when they understand the procedure and realize it is not as involved or as invasive as they are imagining. I also like to make sure they're aware of the alternatives of not doing anything and explore that with them if they really aren't up for any invasive procedures or treatments.”
But, patients who are having a bronchoscopy are often relieved to know that they will undergo general anesthesia and have no sensation of discomfort during the procedure, which involves inserting a bronchoscope—a long, skinny camera—into the mouth and down into the airway. “Then, depending on what our target is, we use different tools to biopsy different areas of the lung, all while the patient is sleeping,” Dr. DeBiasi says. “They're very relieved when I tell them the procedure is going to take under an hour and that they will be home in two hours.”