Our fingertips are incredibly sensitive biomechanical devices. They’re regularly used by physicians to feel out tumors during biopsy or excision surgeries. While reasonably effective, too many patients return for repeat procedures to remove missed bits of target lesions.
Researchers at University of Western Australia have been working on giving superpowers to surgeons’ fingers so they can better discern healthy from cancerous tissues. The team built a quantitative micro-elastography (QME) probe that relies on optical coherence tomography to detect how tissue gives way under stress. It has a fiber optic cable whose tip is placed on the fingertip itself, and it shines a coherent light into the tissue that it makes contact with. As the device is pressed against tissue, it measures the change in the way the light scatters and translates that into a reading.
It is worn over a finger, kind of like a clinical pulse oximeter. The user simply presses it against a given tissue and it provides a quick measure of that tissue’s elasticity. The accuracy had to be fine tuned, as slight movements by the user had a significant impact on the readings. A special algorithm was designed to handle this complication.
“Our new probe aims to enhance the surgeon’s subjective sense of touch through quantified, high-resolution imaging of tissue stiffness,” said Rowan W. Sanderson, first author of the related paper appearing in journal Biomedical Optics Express. “This could make it easier to detect and remove all the cancerous tissue during the first breast conserving surgery, which would reduce the physical and psychological burden and cost that accompanies re-excision.”
The device achieved a nearly 90% accuracy in some tests and the researchers are now working at improving that number even further. They are also developing a glove with the sensor built-in so that it can be used as a convenient, easy to use surgical product.
Study in Biomedical Optics Express: Finger-mounted quantitative micro-elastography…
Via: The Optical Society…