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Laser Bronchoscopy: What You Need to Know

With the lung cancer epidemic showing no signs of slowing down, there is no doubt interventional bronchoscopists (doctors who specialize in wind pipe blockages and diagnosing lung cancer) will also be around for many years to come.

The rigid bronchoscope and the Nd:YAG laser remain essential weapons when fighting lung cancer especially when it has blocked your wind pipes.  This therapy is mainly used for removing cancer from the wind pipes through the mouth without need for any operation requiring cutting.

The efficacy and safety of laser bronchoscopy is well established, with reported incidence of complications relatively low. If complications arise, a seasoned bronchoscopist can easily manage it by employing the helpful attributes of the rigid bronchoscope.

The potential complications of the laser therapy such as bleeding and perforation of the wind pipe can  easily be avoided by ensuring established safety techniques and procedures are observed. A thorough understanding of tissue interactions and laser physics is needed for those who perform laser surgery.

lt is important to also keep in mind that the effect of laser therapy gets bolstered when it is followed by cancer targeted therapy such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The focus of laser therapy is primarily on relieving the symptoms like shortness of breath and improving the quality of life by removing immediate danger to life so that person can go on to get the more definitive cancer targeted therapy.

Since not all patients are candidates for laser bronchoscopy, there are certain characteristics of wind pipe abnormalities that make them amenable to laser therapy. Over the years, promising new technologies are being developed and introduced such as cryotherapy, plasma coagulation, and endobronchial electrosurgery. While it is still unclear what the role these new technologies will play, prospective controlled studies need to be done to qualify the question.

It is possible that the future may lay in combining the technologies with Nd:YAG laser bronchoscopy to maximize the palliative, therapeutic, and possibly the curative effect. As the medical community’s experience with Nd:YAG laser grows and more health care professionals become aware of its therapeutic capability, fewer cancer patients will suffer and die from complications brought about by airway (wind pipe) obstruction.