Patients who have been diagnosed with cancer often undergo surgery to remove the damaged tissue. However, surgeons sometimes struggle with figuring out whether or not they have gotten all of the cancerous portions. This is key to ensuring the health of their patients, and many are in need of better ways to operate. In some cases, a dye is used to call out the damaged portion of the body, but that's not always foolproof.
Ideally, surgeons would benefit most from an exact image of the tissue that needs to be removed before beginning a procedure. Unfortunately, this is not in the realm of possibility at this time. Instead, researchers from Imperial College London have been working to create a new surgical instrument referred to as the "iKnife."1
This tool has been designed to use in electrosurgery, and sends electric current into the tissue for cancer detection. Using rapid evaporative ionization mass spectrometry technology, the knife is primed with information for cancerous and healthy tissue. Using smoke signals – in a way – the piece of equipment informs a surgeon whether or not the cells should be removed or not.2
Information is collected based on different chemical profiles that are associated with the two types of tissue. The iKnife is able to deliver results from the samples in as little as 3 seconds. Not only does this help to ensure that doctors are able to remove all of the necessary cancerous cells, this product will help them do so in a timely manner. Additionally, the process does not differ from normal surgical practices of a tumor removal, making for an easy adjustment for surgeons.3
The next step in this process will be for researchers to conduct clinical trials using the device. These are expected to take place sometime in 2014. The investigation will aim to find out whether or not the iKnife is successful in limiting instances of recurring tumors, which will help patients enjoy longer, cancer-free lives.
Health care facilities can purchase surgical equipment and other medical supplies from Medex Supply, which also provides equipment to individuals for wound care and other at-home treatment of medical issues.
1 LiveScience, "Surgical knife may sniff out cancer" October 10, 2013
2 Medical News Today, "Surgeon's smart knife detects cancer cells in tumor operations" July 18, 2013
3 Science magazine, "Smart knife sniffs out cancer cells" July 17, 2013