An American doctor has developed a new surgery technique that enables surgeons to see tumors and other pathologies invisible with previous methods. This new 'x-ray vision' laparoscopic technology received the first prize for technical achievement at the 62nd annual meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). This new method incorporates specific filters in the endoscope light system, and surgeons can see 'the tiny amounts of fluorescent light that all living human tissues give off when illuminated, a phenomenon called autofluorescence.' In a first step, this technique will be used for the diagnosis of endometriosis, a potentially debilitating disease that affects 5.5 million women in the United States alone. As the system can be used to view virtually any organs, the research team is already focused on other applications, such as cancer detection. But read more...
This new system has been developed by Steven Palter, who's been working for years to integrate high technology developments into surgical procedures and tools. He's also the creator of the Docinthemachine website, which is focused on new technology developments in medicine, and the Scientific Director for Gold Coast IVF, which provides treatment for all causes of infertility and is based in Syosset, NY.
Here is a short description of this new visualization tool for surgeons.
This new technique enables surgeons to see tumors and other pathologies, including endometriosis not otherwise visible. In traditional laparoscopy, the telescope provides the same view as would be seen with the naked eye. In the new method, highly specific filters are incorporated into the light system and telescope so that surgeons can see the tiny amounts of fluorescent light that all living human tissues give off when illuminated, a phenomenon called "autofluorescence".
You'll find more details on this system by reading How The Autofluorescence System Works. Below is an illustration showing the system (Credit: Steven Palter)."
Tissues illuminated with regular light emit a small amount of differently colored fluorescent light which is often not seen since the overall illuminating white light is so much brighter. By applying specific filters to the illumination light the amount of fluorescent light emitted can be maximized. By using observation filters, the large amount of illuminating light can be filtered out and the small amount of colored fluorescent light made to stand out and be more easily seen.
Below are four pictures showing how the system detects invisible diseases (Credit: Steven Palter). The top left image (A) was obtained by regular white light laparoscopy while the upper right one (B) was obtained with only an observation filter. On the bottom panel is an image obtained with only the illumination filter (C), showing the intense blue illumination light used. Finally, you can see what could see the surgeons (D) with both filters in action. In this last image, the little blue spots, invisible on the other ones, indicate the presence of diseased tissues.
Even if the system will first be used for the diagnosis of endometriosis, I wanted to know if it could be used to detect other diseases. Steven Palter was kind enough to answer my questions.
This system is 100% applicable to many different parts of the body and virtually any organ system. It is not at all limited to infertility or to reproductive organs. The basis of the physical principle is that normal tissue gives off a small amount of autofluorescent light -- any disease tissue that grows on top of normal tissue blocks, enhances, or alters the transmission from the underlying normal tissue and becomes visible.
And he adds that the technology could be applied to all body cavities (the mouth, the bladder, the colon, the vagina, the uterus, etc.). I also asked him about other possible applications for this visualization tool. Here is his reply.
Endometriosis is just the "tip of the iceberg" -- and probably will not be the most significant use! Our follow-up study will focus on the diagnosis of cancer cells in the abdominal cavity. [...] Cancer diagnosis should be the #1 most important application.
For more information, you can read Palter's thoughts about The Coming Radical Transformation of Surgery and watch several short videos available on this page about this new "X-Ray vision" tumor surgery technique.
Well, I sure hope that this tool will land soon into the hands of surgeons worldwide...
Sources: docinthemachine.com website
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