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IEEE Rev Biomed Eng. 2013;6:178-87. doi: 10.1109/RBME.2013.2240294. Epub 2013 Jan 15.

Fluorescence imaging in surgery.

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  • 1Division of Head and Neck Surgery, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0647, USA.


Although the modern surgical era is highlighted by multiple technological advances and innovations, one area that has remained constant is the dependence of the surgeon's vision on white-light reflectance. This renders different body tissues in a limited palette of various shades of pink and red, thereby limiting the visual contrast available to the operating surgeon. Healthy tissue, anatomic variations, and diseased states are seen as slight discolorations relative to each other and differences are inherently limited in dynamic range. In the upcoming years, surgery will undergo a paradigm shift with the use of targeted fluorescence imaging probes aimed at augmenting the surgical armamentarium by expanding the "visible" spectrum available to surgeons. Such fluorescent "smart probes" will provide real-time, intraoperative, pseudo-color, high-contrast delineation of both normal and pathologic tissues. Fluorescent surgical molecular guidance promises another major leap forward to improve patient safety and clinical outcomes, and to reduce overall healthcare costs. This review provides an overview of current and future surgical applications of fluorescence imaging in diseased and nondiseased tissues and focus on the innovative fields of image processing and instrumentation.

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