Complex technical problems interfered with the application of thoracic ultrasound (US) for studies and clinical research. Moreover, in contrast to radiologists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, internists, obstetricians, gynecologists and others, pulmonologists were not trained in the basics of US images. However, endoscopic US methods were developed in the last 20 years and these methods also provided important results for pulmonologists. As soon as the technical problems interfering with US application in air-containing spaces were solved, endobronchial US (EBUS) became a valuable technique as well. With EBUS, the delicate multilayer structure of the tracheobronchial wall can be analyzed. This knowledge became decisive for the management of early cancer in the central airways. These lesions can undergo local treatment instead of surgical intervention if the bronchial cartilage is intact and if the adjacent lymph nodes are not involved. EBUS proved valuable as well for the staging of more advanced lung cancer, especially with regard to endoluminal, intramural and extraluminal tumor spread. Endobronchial endosonographers are able to diagnose mediastinal lymph nodes similar to the experience of gastrointestinal endosonographers. EBUS-guided transbronchial needle aspiration (TBNA) improved the results of N-staging of lung cancer, especially in difficult lymph node levels without any clear endoscopic landmarks. The possibility of identifying N2 and N3 stages by means of a nonsurgical procedure can modify the management of lung cancer and decrease the number of unnecessary surgical interventions. EBUS can reduce the need for more invasive procedures such as thoracoscopy or mediastinoscopy. It is also useful for biopsying peripheral lesions or solitary pulmonary nodules instead of fluoroscopic guidance and also plays an important role in the strategy of interventional endoscopy.
Copyright 2003 S. Karger AG, Basel