Purpose: Breast-conserving surgery (BCS) results in tumour-positive surgical margins in up to 40% of the patients. Therefore, new imaging techniques are needed that support the surgeon with real-time feedback on tumour location and margin status. In this study, the potential of near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF) imaging in BCS for pre- and intraoperative tumour localization, margin status assessment and detection of residual disease was assessed in tissue-simulating breast phantoms.
Methods: Breast-shaped phantoms were produced with optical properties that closely match those of normal breast tissue. Fluorescent tumour-like inclusions containing indocyanine green (ICG) were positioned at predefined locations in the phantoms to allow for simulation of (i) preoperative tumour localization, (ii) real-time NIRF-guided tumour resection, and (iii) intraoperative margin assessment. Optical imaging was performed using a custom-made clinical prototype NIRF intraoperative camera.
Results: Tumour-like inclusions in breast phantoms could be detected up to a depth of 21 mm using a NIRF intraoperative camera system. Real-time NIRF-guided resection of tumour-like inclusions proved feasible. Moreover, intraoperative NIRF imaging reliably detected residual disease in case of inadequate resection.
Conclusion: We evaluated the potential of NIRF imaging applications for BCS. The clinical setting was simulated by exploiting tissue-like breast phantoms with fluorescent tumour-like agarose inclusions. From this evaluation, we conclude that intraoperative NIRF imaging is feasible and may improve BCS by providing the surgeon with imaging information on tumour location, margin status, and presence of residual disease in real-time. Clinical studies are needed to further validate these results.
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