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Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass

Last updated Nov. 15, 2019

Written by: Subramanian Malaisamy MD, MRCP (UK), FCCP (USA)

Reviewed by: Subramanian Malaisamy MD, MRCP (UK), FCCP (USA)

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure is a therapeutic procedure that allows applying laser on mass obstructing the airways.


Background Information:

What are the other Names for the Procedure?

  • Bronchoscopic Laser Therapy
  • Endobronchial Laser Therapy
  • Laser Therapy of Airway Mass/Lesions

What is Laser Therapy of Endobronchial mass procedure?

  • Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure is a therapeutic procedure that allows applying laser on mass obstructing the airways. Laser therapy uses a focused beam of heat energy to destroy cancer tissues
  • It allows rapid treatment of shortness of breath due to airway (trachea or main bronchi) obstruction by cancer mass. The trachea and bronchial airways are airway tubes that carry oxygen to the lungs and are a part of the respiratory tract
  • The Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure is mostly performed as part of palliative care in end-stage cancer disease or stabilizing symptoms as a bridge to definitive chemo-radiation therapy

What part of the Body does the Procedure involve?

  • Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure is usually done with the aid of rigid bronchoscopy
  • The procedure involves passing a rigid bronchoscope through the mouth. The scope is passed into the oro-pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), and trachea (windpipe)

Why is the Laser Therapy of Endobronchial mass procedure Performed?

There are various reasons for performing the Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure. Some of these include:

  • Airway obstruction, usually from cancer disease
  • Benign growths in the airways
  • Hemoptysis (coughing blood)
  • Stricture or narrowing in trachea or main bronchi due to complications related to intubation, tracheostomy, radiation, and infections in the airways (such as MRSA or TB)
  • Papillomas
  • Strictures due to vasculitis such as granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s granulomatosis)
  • Erosion and obstruction of broncholiths into the airways from calcified lymph nodes from the chest/mediastinum

What are some Alternative Choices for the Procedure?

Once Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure is considered, there are usually no better alternatives. Sometimes, patients may be referred directly to the thoracic surgeon for open surgical lung procedures.

What are the Recent Advances in the Procedure?

  • Ongoing advances in Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass include the use of various laser types such as Nd:YAG laser, Nd:YAP laser, and Co2 laser
  • Nd: YAG laser is most commonly used in this type of procedure

What is the Cost of performing the Laser Therapy of Endobronchial mass procedure?

The cost of Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of your health insurance, annual deductibles, co-pay requirements, out-of-network and in-network of your healthcare providers and healthcare facilities.

In many cases, an estimate may be provided before the procedure. The final amount depends upon the findings during the surgery/procedure and post-operative care that is necessary.

When do you need a Second Opinion, prior to the Procedure?

  • It is normal for a patient to feel uncomfortable and confused with a sudden inflow of information regarding the Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure and what needs to be done
  • If the patient needs further reassurance or a second opinion, a physician will almost always assist in recommending another physician
  • Also, if the procedure involves multiple steps or has many alternatives, the patient may take a second opinion to understand and choose the best one. They can also choose to approach another physician independently

What are some Helpful Resources?

https://anesthesiology.pubs.asahq.org/article.aspx?articleid=2027067 (accessed on 11/11/19)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4700383/ (accessed on 11/11/19)

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/crj/2019/5269728/ (accessed on 11/11/19)

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02718249 (accessed on 11/11/19)

Prior to Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure:

How is the Laser Therapy of Endobronchial mass procedure Performed?

The Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure is usually performed as an outpatient procedure. 

  • Since it requires bronchoscopy, the patient is required to be under fasting prior to procedure per the physician recommendation
  • The procedure is usually done under general anesthesia (with oral airway)
  • Since laser is used in the airway, in order to minimize risks of airway injury and avoid coughing during the procedure, it is performed using a paralytic agent
  • Oxygen and ventilation are provided during the procedure through the side port by rigid bronchoscope
  • Sometimes, topical anesthesia is sprayed in the oro-pharynx (throat) as well
  • Once the procedure is completed, the bronchoscope is withdrawn
  • The patient may be ventilated with an oral airway till the paralytic agent and anesthesia wears off

Where is the Procedure Performed?

Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure is usually performed in a university hospital in an endoscopy/surgical procedure suite.

Who Performs the Procedure?

The procedure is usually performed by an interventional pulmonologist or thoracic surgeon who has undergone additional training in complex airway procedures.

How long will the Procedure take?

  • The actual procedure may take between 60-90 minutes depending on the therapeutic procedures planned
  • On considering the pre-procedure examination and post-procedure recovery time, the total time in the procedure suite is between 4-6 hours

What do you need to tell your Physician before the Procedure?

It is very important to provide the following information to your healthcare provider. This enables your healthcare provider in assessing the risks for the procedure and in avoiding certain complications.

  • Provide medical history such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc. (if any)
  • Medication history and any allergies to medications, latex etc.
  • If the patient is under any of the following medications, it has to be promptly informed to the healthcare provider: Aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), ticagrelor (Brilinta), warfarin (coumadin), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), apixaban (Eliquis), dabigatran (Pradaxa), enoxaparin (Lovenox) etc. and any other blood thinners that he/she is currently taking
  • Any medical or family history of bleeding disorders or blood clots
  • Any unusual effects of anesthesia from prior surgery
  • History of sleep apnea and CPAP use at home
  • History of rheumatoid arthritis, which can affect the neck joints
  • Dental problems such as loose tooth
  • History of arthritis or stiffness of neck joints
  • Neck flexion/extension limitations due to any prior surgery or radiation to the neck and throat region
  • History of cervical spondylosis or cervical spine discectomy surgery

What Preparations are needed, prior to the Procedure?

The physician performing the procedure will evaluate the patient prior to procedure and discuss procedure details with risks for complications and obtain his/her permission (termed informed consent). 

  • If anesthesia team is involved in the procedure, then they too will discuss details of anesthesia with risks for complications and obtain permission from the patient (informed consent)
  • Blood work, glucose, and pregnancy tests (if applicable) will be undertaken per physician recommendations
  • It is strongly advised not to use any cocaine about 7 to 14 days before procedure; and if so, it is important to discuss the same with the physician and anesthesia team
  • Smoking should generally be avoided prior to procedure
  • Generally, the patient is required to be on fast (no solids or liquids) for at least 8 hours prior to the procedure
  • Individuals with diabetes, hypertension, or other cardiac conditions, are required to discuss these (including medications taken) with their attending physician well in advance

What is the Consent Process before the Procedure?

The physician will obtain permission for the Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure using an Informed Consent Form.

Consent for the Procedure: A “consent” is the approval to undergo a procedure. A consent form is signed after the risks and benefits of the procedure, and alternative treatment options, are discussed. This process is called informed consent.

In case of minors and individuals unable to give informed consent, the parent or legal guardian or next of kin can sign the consent for the procedure.

What Tests are needed, before the Laser Therapy of Endobronchial mass/lesions procedure?

  • Blood tests and pregnancy test (if applicable) may be required prior to the procedure
  • The patient may have already undergone a chest X-ray or CT scan of the chest, or both
  • An EKG may be needed for anesthetic evaluation

What are some Questions for your Physician?

Some of the basic questions that you might ask your physician are as follows:

  • What is Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure?
  • Why is this procedure necessary?  How will it help?
  • How soon should I get it done? Is it an emergency?
  • Who are the medical personnel involved in this procedure?
  • Where is the procedure performed? 
  • What are the risks while performing the procedure?
  • What are the complications that might take place during recovery?
  • How long will it take to recover? When can I resume normal work?
  • How many such procedures have you (the physician) performed?
  • Are there any follow-up tests, periodic visits to the healthcare facility required after the procedure?
  • What are the costs involved?

During the Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure:

What kind of Anesthesia is given, during the Procedure?

  • The Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure is usually performed under general anesthesia
  • Oxygen and ventilation are provided through the side port with rigid bronchoscopy
  • The patient is usually (medically) paralyzed with a paralytic agent
  • Sometimes, topical anesthesia is sprayed onto the oro-pharynx (throat) as well

How much Blood will you lose, during the Procedure?

Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass is a fairly invasive procedure performed on patients with complex airway issues due to lung cancer. Although the risk of bleeding is higher compared to other bronchoscopies, the experience and advanced training of the interventional pulmonology or thoracic surgery team results in the procedure being undertaken with a high level of care and safety.

What are the possible Risks and Complications during the Laser Therapy of Endobronchial mass/lesions procedure?

The possible risks or complications that arise during Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure include:

  • Injury to the teeth, gums, vocal cords due to rigid bronchoscopy
  • Bleeding in the airways with lasering cancer mass
  • Tearing of the airways
  • Inflammation and infection of the airways
  • Necrosis and fistula (abnormal tracts) formation between the airway and the esophagus (food-pipe)
  • Oxygen desaturations, low blood pressure, and arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythm)
  • Anesthesia complications, such as respiratory depression, the need for mechanical ventilation, anaphylactic reactions, etc.
  • Rarely, airway fires, since laser (heat) therapy is undertaken with oxygen ventilation
  • Rarely, it may give rise to gas embolism (gas entering the blood vessels in the airways)

In some rare cases, deaths have been reported with this procedure (much less than 1% incidence).

What Post-Operative Care is needed at the Healthcare Facility after the Laser Therapy of Endobronchial mass procedure?

  • The patient is usually observed by healthcare professionals (nurses) in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU); and his/her vital signs are monitored
  • A chest X-ray is usually performed to rule out any complications.
  • Nebulizer treatment, antibiotics, and steroids may be administered after the procedure

After the Laser Therapy of Endobronchial mass procedure:

What are the possible Risks and Complications after the Laser Therapy of Endobronchial mass procedure?

The possible risks and complications that arise after Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure include:

  • Sore throat and cough for up to 24 hours after the procedure
  • Low-grade fevers for about 24 hours after procedure
  • Bronchospasm, which is manifested by difficulty in breathing
  • Hemoptysis or coughing of blood
  • Airway perforation causing chest pain and shortness of breath
  • Difficulty in swallowing or painful swallowing
  • Delayed clearance of anesthesia medications leading to prolonged respiratory depression and the need for mechanical ventilation
  • Uncommonly, low oxygen saturations or cardiac arrhythmias post procedure may result in the patient being admitted for overnight observation in the hospital

What is the Prognosis after the Surgery?

  • The recovery from the procedure is variable depending on the patient’s underlying health condition and extent of cancer disease
  • The patient is usually discharged after 60 minutes to 2 hours after the procedure. Typically, there may be a follow up with the physician in 2 weeks to review the results

When do you need to call your Physician?

Do contact your physician or call 911 (or your local emergency number) based on the seriousness of any of the following symptoms:

  • Persistent coughing 
  • Coughing fresh blood
  • Worsening shortness of breath 
  • Worsening or tearing chest pain
  • High-grade fevers; over 101 degree F

What Post-Operative Care is needed at Home after the Laser Therapy of Endobronchial mass/lesions procedure?

At home, the following post-operative care is recommended, after a Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure:

  • Take simple analgesics, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), if needed
  • Avoid any strenuous activity for a period recommended by the physician
  • Do not drive (post-procedure) for a period of 24 hours
  • Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol post-procedure
  • Continue prescribed medications except for aspirin or blood thinners. It is important to check with the physician on when to resume aspirin or blood thinners
  • Do not sign any legal documents post-procedure for a period of 24 hours

How long does it normally take to fully recover, from the Procedure?

Usually, it takes about 24 hours to completely recover from the effects of the anesthesia and bronchoscopic procedure.

Additional Information:

What happens to tissue/samples (if any), taken during the Procedure?

The samples/tissue are usually sent to the microbiology and pathology departments in the hospital and subsequently disposed, as per the standard hospital protocol.

When should you expect results from the pathologist regarding tissue taken out, during the Procedure?

  • The sample/tissue is processed in the laboratory under a pathologist's supervision
  • Slide(s) are prepared once the tissue is processed and this is examined by a pathologist and a pathology report issued
  • Depending on the complexity of the case, issue of the report may take anywhere between 72 hours to a week's time

Who will you receive a Bill from, after the Laser Therapy of Endobronchial mass procedure?

It is important to note that the number of bills that the patient may receive depends on the arrangement the healthcare facility has with the physician and other healthcare providers.

Sometimes, the patient may get a single bill that includes the healthcare facility and the consultant physician charges. Sometimes, the patient might get multiple bills depending on the healthcare provider involved. For instance, the patient may get a bill from:

  • The outpatient facility or hospital
  • The pulmonologist or thoracic surgeon
  • An anesthesiologist (if anesthesia was administered)
  • A pathologist (if the tissue was sent for analysis)

The patient is advised to inquire and confirm the type of billing, before the Laser Therapy of Endobronchial Mass procedure is performed.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Nov. 15, 2019
Last updated: Nov. 15, 2019