Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

High-Tech Goggles Give Surgeons 'Sci-Fi' Vision

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

High-Tech Goggles Give Surgeons 'Sci-Fi' Vision

Article excerpt

Which superhuman power would you choose for help on the job? For Dr. Julie Margenthaler, it's a technology similar to X-ray vision used for the first time recently during an operation to remove a patient's lymph node.

"It's like I'm in a sci-fi movie," Dr. Margenthaler said after she put on the goggles that allowed her to see the patient's lymph node light up with a fluorescent blue glow invisible to the naked eye. A video camera projected the surgeon's visual field onto the screen inside the goggles and on a computer screen in the operating room.

The new technology developed at Washington University may eventually be used to see microscopic cancer cells during surgery and enable a more thorough removal of tumors.

For now, the research team is testing the goggles on 20 to 30 breast cancer and melanoma patients to locate lymph nodes that will be tested for potential spread of the cancer. Karen Clodfelter, 67, of St. Louis, was the study's first patient.

"It was a lot less cumbersome than I thought it would be," Dr. Margenthaler said of the lightweight goggles that telescope the surgeon's visual field. "When I had (Clodfelter's) lymph node between my two forceps, it was lighting up very well."

After the surgical staff helped Dr. Margenthaler put on the goggles, the team cheered when the process worked as planned.

"We're all interested in finding some way to perfect our surgical technique and ultimately find cancer cells earlier," Dr. Margenthaler said after the one-hour procedure at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

The research team of surgeons and biomedical engineers has been working on the new imaging technique for several years.

The idea came out of discussions among surgeons and scientists about the challenges of identifying the margins of tumor cells during cancer surgeries.

Samuel Achilefu, a professor of radiology and biomedical engineering, remembered the night vision goggles used in the Persian Gulf War and thought maybe a similar technology could be used in the operating room.

"The whole idea is to simplify the way we image patients and the way we guide surgery," said Mr. Achilefu, who leads the team. …

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