Staging for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) requires accurate assessment of the mediastinal lymph nodes which determines treatment and outcome. As radiological staging is limited by its specificity and sensitivity, it is necessary to sample the mediastinal nodes. Traditionally, mediastinoscopy has been used for evaluation of the mediastinum especially when radical treatment is contemplated, although conventional transbronchial needle aspiration (TBNA) has also been used in other situations for staging and diagnostic purposes. Endobronchial ultrasound guided transbronchial needle aspiration (EBUS-TBNA) offers a minimally invasive alternative to mediastinoscopy with additional access to the hilar nodes, a better safety profile, and it removes the costs and hazards of theatre time and general anaesthesia with comparable sensitivity, although the negative predictive value of mediastinoscopy (and sample size) is greater. EBUS-TBNA also obtains larger samples than conventional TBNA, has superior performance and theoretically is safer, allowing real-time sampling under direct vision. It can also have predictive value both in sonographic appearance of the nodes and histological characteristics. EBUS-TBNA is therefore indicated for NSCLC staging, diagnosis of lung cancer when there is no endobronchial lesion, and diagnosis of both benign (especially tuberculosis and sarcoidosis) and malignant mediastinal lesions. The procedure is different than for flexible bronchoscopy, takes longer, and requires more training. EBUS-TBNA is more expensive than conventional TBNA but can save costs by reducing the number of more costly mediastinoscopies. Revenue based tariff systems have been slow to reflect the innovation of techniques such as EBUS-TBNA. In the future, endobronchial ultrasound may have applications in airways disease and pulmonary vascular disease.
- Endobronchial ultrasound
- transbronchial needle aspiration
- lung cancer
- chest imaging
- adult thoracic medicine
- respiratory tract tumours
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Competing interests none
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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