Enhancing Parathyroid Gland Visualization Using a Near Infrared Fluorescence-Based Overlay Imaging System

J Am Coll Surg. 2019 May;228(5):730-743. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2019.01.017. Epub 2019 Feb 13.


Background: Misidentifying parathyroid glands (PGs) during thyroidectomies or parathyroidectomies could significantly increase postoperative morbidity. Imaging systems based on near infrared autofluorescence (NIRAF) detection can localize PGs with high accuracy. These devices, however, depict NIRAF images on remote display monitors, where images lack spatial context and comparability with actual surgical field of view. In this study, we designed an overlay tissue imaging system (OTIS) that detects tissue NIRAF and back-projects the collected signal as a visible image directly onto the surgical field of view instead of a display monitor, and tested its ability for enhancing parathyroid visualization.

Study design: The OTIS was first calibrated with a fluorescent ink grid and initially tested with parathyroid, thyroid, and lymph node tissues ex vivo. For in vivo measurements, the surgeon's opinion on tissue of interest was first ascertained. After the surgeon looked away, the OTIS back-projected visible green light directly onto the tissue of interest, only if the device detected relatively high NIRAF as observed in PGs. System accuracy was determined by correlating NIRAF projection with surgeon's visual confirmation for in situ PGs or histopathology report for excised PGs.

Results: The OTIS yielded 100% accuracy when tested ex vivo with parathyroid, thyroid, and lymph node specimens. Subsequently, the device was evaluated in 30 patients who underwent thyroidectomy and/or parathyroidectomy. Ninety-seven percent of exposed tissue of interest was visualized correctly as PGs by the OTIS, without requiring display monitors or contrast agents.

Conclusions: Although OTIS holds novel potential for enhancing label-free parathyroid visualization directly within the surgical field of view, additional device optimization is required for eventual clinical use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Fluorescence
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / instrumentation
  • Image Enhancement / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Optical Imaging / instrumentation
  • Optical Imaging / methods*
  • Parathyroid Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Parathyroid Diseases / surgery
  • Parathyroid Glands / diagnostic imaging*
  • Parathyroid Glands / surgery
  • Parathyroidectomy
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared / instrumentation
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared / methods*
  • Surgery, Computer-Assisted
  • Thyroid Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Thyroid Diseases / surgery
  • Thyroidectomy