Doctors have created a type of ‘smart’ surgical knife that can detect cancer.
Smart technologies are everywhere. From smartphones to ‘smart’ vacuums, everything has to have the label ‘smart’ for them to be ‘up-to-date’ and useful. When it comes to the surgery room, where doctors rely on the latest technological advancements to keep patients alive, the knives (used for cutting people open) can be considered as some of the most rudimentary tools to still be in use. So how do you make a slice and dice knife any ‘smarter’ than it already is?
As it turns out, you can make an already sharp knife even sharper. Dr. Zoltan Takats at the Imperial College London have been developing a knife that can ‘sniff’ out cancer tissues. Essentially what the doctor did was he hooked up a knife to a large mass spectrometry device, and when the knife (which uses heat) cuts into tissue it sends a plume of smoke to the spectrometer where the ‘smell’ of the smoke can be analyzed to determine of the tissue contains cancer cells.
In many cancer surgery cases, the removal of tumors often has to be extended into multiple sessions to ensure that the majority of the cancer cells have been removed. Also, it is not uncommon for patients to undergo further chemotherapy (or other drug) treatments to provide another layer of security.
The smart cancer knife isn’t meant to cut down surgical procedures to one session, but rather it’s meant to lower a patient’s surgery time. Imagine doctors being able to identify on-the-spot if what they removed indeed are cancerous tissues instead of waiting 30 minutes or so for a lab analysis to come in. The wait time in between tissue analysis is a factor in determining whether or not a patient will lose a lot of blood or come down with some sort of wound infection.
Doctors are still conducting studies using the new smart knife, and are hoping that they’ll have enough positive results soon to help bolster its chances of passing regulatory, and start making an impact on real patients in the surgery room.