Purpose of review
In the history of bronchoscopy, the advent of flexible transbronchial needle aspiration (TBNA) before and, subsequently, of endobronchial ultrasound-guided transbronchial needle aspiration (EBUS-TBNA), have represented fundamental events, as they have significantly and definitively changed interventional pulmonology's role in diagnostic and therapeutic work-up of most of thoracic diseases.
Purpose of this historical review is to retrace the main stages that have contributed to the development of these two techniques.
TBNA allowed the bronchoscopists to overcome the barrier of the tracheobronchial wall and to obtain samples from hilar-mediastinal lesions. With this additional method, bronchoscopy has become an essential procedure for staging of lung cancer.
The advent of echo-bronchoscopes, allowing to perform TBNA under direct ultrasound guidance in real time, further increased the diagnostic yield of this technique. Furthermore, the insertion of the echo-bronchoscope through the oesophagus allowed to extend the landscape of targets to sample, including also para-esophageal lesions, liver metastases, celiac nodes and left adrenal glands.
EBUS-TBNA has shown its usefulness not only in the approach to mediastinal lesions, but also in other clinical conditions, such as lung nodules or masses adjacent to the tracheobronchial tree.
Despite the obvious advantages of EBUS-TBNA, this technology is not yet available in many centres and countries worldwide. For this reason, TBNA remains a basic technique that must complete the technical background of bronchoscopists and it should not be forgotten.