The Intelligent Scalpel
Kyle Maxey posted on July 24, 2013 |
Heated iKnife sniffs out the smoke of cancerous tissue

An intelligent “scalpel” has been developed that can detect cancerous tissue in real time during surgery.

For surgeons, operating on a patient with cancer is a hard work. Once the decision to operate has been made, the surgeon needs near encyclopedic knowledge of the position of a patient’s tumor because once they’re into the operation they can’t differentiate healthy tissue from a tumor. Because of the relative uncertainty of this process, surgeons often remove otherwise healthy flesh tissue to ensure that the tumor has been completely excised. That is, until now.

Dr. Zoltan Takats, a researcher at Imperial College in London, was concerned with the inexactness of surgery.  He put his mind to developing a high-tech surgical knife that would eliminate the uncertainties of operations.

Named the iKnife, Dr. Takats’ next-gen scalpel is an electrosurgical knife that uses heat to cut through tissue. As the knife slices through a patient’s flesh it produces smoke that is rich in biological information.  Rather than simply allowing that smoke to waft away, the iKnife collects it and performs an instant analysis of the smoke’s characteristics, determining whether the tissue it’s cutting is cancerous.

In recently published paper in the journal Science Transitional Medicine, Takat’s revealed that the iKnife had already diagnosed cancerous tissue in 91 patients with a success rate of 100%.

According to Takats, the results of his trials with the iKnife “provide compelling evidence that the iKnife can be applied in a wide range of cancer surgery procedures". In fact Dr. Takats says the iKnife “provides a result almost instantly, allowing surgeons to carry out procedures with a level of accuracy that hasn't been possible before. We believe it has the potential to reduce tumour recurrence rates and enable more patients to survive."

While the iKnife cost Imperial College some £200,000 to develop, Takats and his team believe their new invention will become affordable once it makes it to commercial production. But beyond being affordable, the iKnife has the potential to save the lives of many struggling with cancer.

Watch a Video of the iKnife in Action:

Image and Video Courtesy of Euronews & AP

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