Linear endobronchial ultrasonography: a novelty turned necessity for mediastinal nodal assessment.
Linear endobronchial ultrasound was first described in 2003. Since then the technique has spread rapidly and has now become an established practice in many centres as the first-line mediastinal investigation for the diagnosis and staging of lung cancer. In combination with endoscopic ultrasound, the majority of the mediastinum can be assessed and this approach has been shown to have equivalent accuracy to surgical staging. This strategy is also cost-effective. New tissue processing techniques using liquid-based thin-layer cytology and cell blocks have increased diagnostic yield using immunohistochemical staining and molecular diagnostics. Several meta-analyses of case series and, more recently, randomised controlled trials have provided high-level evidence of efficacy leading to incorporation into national lung cancer staging guidelines. In addition, linear endobronchial ultrasound is increasingly used in the investigation of mediastinal lymphadenopathy for suspected sarcoidosis, tuberculosis and lymphoma. While undoubtedly endobronchial/endoscopic ultrasound has reduced the need for surgical staging in lung cancer, the latter still has an important role to play in certain scenarios. The challenge now facing clinicians is to learn to apply the appropriate test or sequence of tests in each patient while ensuring that operators are appropriately trained in order to ensure optimal outcomes.