An “intelligent knife” that lets surgeons know immediately whether the tissue is cancerous or not was 100% accurate in the first study testing the product in the operating room. The tool is known as the “iKnife” and couples electrosurgery with rapid evaporative ionization mass spectrometry. Normally, when surgeons slice through tissue with an electrosurgical knife, heat vaporizes the tissue and the aerosol created has tissue fragements that are sucked away by vacuum systems. With the iKnife, the aerosol is collected and analyzed in real time with mass spectrometry, allowing for the determination of whether tissue if cancer or not (within 3 seconds!). The iKnife was developed by Zoltan Takats, PhD, who previously worked at Semnelweiss University in Budapest, Hungary. The operating room tests were done in 3 hospitals in Hungary, and more studies are happening now in the United Kingdom at 3 hospitals.
My take: Fascinating! The implications are huge: For example, in breast cancer surgery, about 20-30% of patients need to age a second operation to remove more tissue (in order to get clear margins). I look forward to confirmatory studies regarding the innovative iKnife. I may someday need to add to my collection of i-devices, including IPad and IPhone! I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.
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Reference: Sci Transl Med 2013; %:194ra93. Abstract.