Appalachian Regional Healthcare System is committed to providing exceptional care to its patients. Since its inception in 2004, the healthcare system has made every effort to equip its hospitals and ancillary practices with skilled providers, compassionate staff and state-of-the-art technology and equipment. Recently, the healthcare system added a new piece of technology to improve its comprehensive thoracic surgery capabilities.

New Equipment

Thorasic-General-Surgery-TeamThe decision to add EBUS came after Dr. Timothy Edmisten, a Boone native and general surgeon at Watauga Surgical Group, asked the hospital board and administration to consider the benefits of adding the advanced diagnostic equipment.

Edmisten explained, “Although, the traditional diagnostic bronchoscopy (used to find tumors in the airway) had been conducted successfully at Watauga Medical Center for more than 20 years, it is not without limitation. Due to the nature of the procedure, it is difficult for surgeons to detect hidden tumors in hard to reach places, like behind the bronchus, without conventional surgery.”

Fortunately, EBUS provides a minimally invasive solution. The state-of-the-art equipment utilizes a bronchoscope outfitted with an ultrasound probe inserted via the patient’s airway to detect tumors and obtain samples with pinpoint precision. The samples are then used to obtain a diagnosis and conduct additional cancer staging.

The Tumor Board

If the diagnosis is cancer, the results from the EBUS procedure are then brought before the Tumor Board. The Tumor Board, which meets weekly at Watauga Medical Center to discuss cases, consists of a radiologist, pathologist, several surgeons including Dr. Edmisten, as well as the Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center’s medical oncologists, radiation oncologist and nurse navigator. Together, they discuss each patient’s case to create a comprehensive treatment plan. Treatment plans often utilize different treatment modalities ranging from chemotherapy to radiation oncology and in some cases surgery.

“There are so many different modalities for treating cancer,” said Kim Bianca, Sr. Vice President of Clinical Services at ARHS. “The Tumor Board brings all of these different modalities together to determine on a case by case basis the best course of treatment for each patient.”

Surgery Options

A variety of advanced, yet minimally invasive thoracic (lung and esophagus) procedures, are available at Watauga Medical Center including, thoracoscopic lobectomies. The procedures involve making small keyhole incisions in the chest to remove tumors. Thanks to the minimally invasive nature of these procedures, patients generally experience less pain and a quicker return to function post surgery.

“We are very fortunate to be able to offer this community such comprehensive thoracic services,” said Bianca. “EBUS is the latest example of a forward thinking healthcare system, focused on equipping its medical staff with the right tools to provide exceptional patient care.”

In addition to thoracic cancer treatment, the Tumor Board, Cancer Center and surgical team at Watauga Medical Center also specialize in providing treatment for a variety of other cancers, including colon and breast cancer.