FLIm laser robotic surgery

UC Davis Health surgeons use FLIm imaging to detect head and neck cancer during surgery

By Nadine A Yehya

A UC Davis Health team of surgeons and scientists has integrated a novel imaging technology with robotic surgical systems to help detect primary cancerous tissue during head and neck cancer surgeries. The technology, known as Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIm), allows surgeons to identify and remove malignant primary tumors more precisely and thoroughly.

Primary tumors are cells where the cancer first starts. It is important to locate these tumors for appropriate treatment and to improve the chance for cure.

In a study published in Head and Neck journal, the team shared the results of testing FLIm in six patients with squamous cell carcinoma of unknown primary in the head and neck.  

“Depending on the diagnostic and clinical capabilities of medical institutions, up to 50% of primary tumors may remain undiscovered for patients with this type of cancer,” said Andrew Birkeland, assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and coauthor of the study. “Missing the primary tumors might put patients at risk of cancer spread and death.”

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