A novel optical approach to intraoperative detection of parathyroid glands

Surgery. 2013 Dec;154(6):1371-7; discussion 1377. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2013.06.046.


Background: Inadvertent removal of parathyroid glands is a challenge in endocrine operations. There is a critical need for a diagnostic tool that provides sensitive, real-time parathyroid detection during procedures. We have developed an intraoperative technique using near-infrared (NIR) fluorescence for in vivo, real-time detection of the parathyroid regardless of its pathologic state.

Methods: NIR fluorescence was measured intraoperatively from 45 patients undergoing parathyroidectomy and thyroidectomy. Spectra were measured from the parathyroid and surrounding neck tissues during the operation with the use of a portable, probe-based fluorescence system at 785-nm excitation. Accuracy was evaluated by comparison with histology or visual recognition by the surgeon.

Results: NIR fluorescence detected the parathyroid in 100% of patients. Parathyroid fluorescence was stronger (1.2-18 times) than that of the thyroid with peak fluorescence at 822 nm. Surrounding tissues showed no auto-fluorescence. Disease state did not affect the ability to discriminate parathyroid glands but may account for signal variability.

Conclusion: NIR fluorescence spectroscopy can detect intraoperatively the parathyroid regardless of tissue pathology. The signal may be caused by calcium-sensing receptors present in the parathyroid. The signal strength and consistency indicates the simplicity and effectiveness of this method. Its implementation may limit operative time, decrease costs, and improve operative success rates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Period
  • Optical Devices
  • Optical Phenomena
  • Parathyroid Diseases / pathology
  • Parathyroid Diseases / surgery
  • Parathyroid Glands / pathology*
  • Parathyroid Glands / surgery*
  • Parathyroidectomy / methods
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence / instrumentation
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence / methods*
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared / instrumentation
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared / methods*
  • Thyroid Diseases / pathology
  • Thyroid Diseases / surgery
  • Thyroidectomy / methods