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Head Neck. 2014 Sep;36(9):1329-34. doi: 10.1002/hed.23452. Epub 2013 Nov 21.

Optical coherence tomography imaging during thyroid and parathyroid surgery: a novel system of tissue identification and differentiation to obviate tissue resection and frozen section.

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Division of Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery, Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, Massachusetts; Wellman Center of Photomedicine and Department of Pathology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts; Division of Head and Neck Surgery, Department of Ophthalmology, Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Ribeirão Preto Medical School, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.



Optical coherence tomography (OCT) allows tissue histologic-like evaluation, but without tissue fixation or staining. We investigated OCT images from tissues obtained at thyroid and parathyroid surgeries to provide a preliminary assessment as to whether these images contain sufficient information for recognition and differentiation of normal neck tissues.


Normal tissues were obtained from patients undergoing surgical treatment. Two new-generation OCT systems, including optical frequency domain imaging (OFDI) and μOCT, were compared to representative hematoxylin-eosin histology.


Thyroid, fat, muscle, lymph nodes, and parathyroid tissues were evaluated. Histologic-like microscopic characteristics sufficient for tissue type identification was realized using both systems for all tissue types examined.


This pilot study demonstrated that new-generation OCT systems are capable of recognizing and differentiating neck tissues encountered during thyroid and parathyroid surgeries. Further advances in OCT miniaturization and development of sterile intraoperative probe formats may allow OCT to offer an intraoperative "optical biopsy" without fixation, staining, or tissue resection.


hyperparathyroidism; parathyroid adenoma; parathyroidectomy; thyroid cancer; thyroidectomy

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