Image-guided bronchoscopy for lung tumor detection

A new navigated bronchoscopy procedure has been developed at SINTEF’s Department of Medical Technology in collaboration with the Departments of Pulmonary Medicine and Medical Technology, St. Olav’s Hospital, in Trondheim, Norway. SINTEF is the largest independent research organization in Scandinavia. SINTEF’s aim is to create value through knowledge generation, research and innovation, and develop technological solutions that are brought into practical use.


A SINTEF research team has been collaborating closely with clinicians at the St. Olav’s Hospital for several years and the partnership has resulted in a number of medical innovations in the field of image-guided diagnostics and therapy. The outcone of this collaboration has resulted in the ability to provide the clinicans and surgeons three-dimensional images of the body’s internal organs while they are operating or performing examinations. For the most part, the techniques utilize ultrasound in combination with CAT images, but magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy is another important source of imagery for the three-dimensional “maps”. A navigation system developed by SINTEF researchers and engineers and pulmonologists at St. Olav’s Hospital provides the latter with three-dimensional images of the route into the patient’s lungs and airways, in which the examination will take place.. The technique is based on the use of a special bronchoscope which is fitted with a position sensor at the tool-tip, so the physicians can always identify — just as in a car satnav GPS system — the location of the bronchoscope tip in the tissue and bronchi. In practice, the GPS system operates in such a way that the CAT scan is first adapted to the patient, via a registration procedure in which the computer is instructed  that the CAT images of the internal organs must match those of the actual physical patient. The position sensor then registers the movements and position of the sensor that is built in at the tip of the bronchoscope.The system can then show where the bronchoscope is located on the CAT images. The sensor is less than 1 mm in diameter, and a weak magnetic field that envelopes the patient registers the location of the sensor in three dimensions in real time.


With the technique, it is possible to localize the tumor within a few millimetres range. (see image above)