Optical coherence tomography for neurosurgical imaging of human intracortical melanoma

Neurosurgery. 1998 Oct;43(4):834-41. doi: 10.1097/00006123-199810000-00068.


Objective: Intraoperative identification of brain tumors and tumor margins has been limited by either the resolution of the in vivo imaging technique or the time required to obtain histological specimens. Our objective was to evaluate the feasibility of using optical coherence tomography (OCT) as a high-resolution, real-time intraoperative imaging technique to identify an intracortical melanoma.

Instrumentation: OCT is a new, noncontact, high-speed imaging technology capable of resolutions on the micrometer scale. OCT is analogous to ultrasound B-mode imaging, except that reflections of infrared light, rather than sound, are detected. OCT uses inherent tissue contrast, rather than enhancement with dyes, to differentiate tissue types. The compact, fiberoptic-based design is readily integrated with surgical instruments.

Methods: A portable handheld OCT surgical imaging probe has been constructed for imaging within the surgical field. Cadaveric human cortex with metastatic melanoma was harvested and imaged in two and three dimensions. Changes in optical backscatter intensity were used to identify regions of tumor and to locate tumor margins. Structures within the optical coherence tomographic images were compared with the histological slides.

Results: Two-dimensional images showed increased optical backscatter from regions of tumor, which was quantitatively used to determine the tumor margin. The images correlated well with the histological findings. Three-dimensional reconstructions revealed regions of tumor penetrating normal cortex and could be resectioned at arbitrary planes. Subsurface cerebral vascular structures could be identified and were therefore avoided.

Conclusion: OCT can effectively differentiate normal cortex from intracortical melanoma based on variations in optical backscatter. The high-resolution, high-speed imaging capabilities of OCT may permit the intraoperative identification of tumor and the more precise localization of tumor margins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Brain Neoplasms / surgery
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / surgery*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / instrumentation*
  • Equipment Design
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Fiber Optic Technology / instrumentation
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / instrumentation
  • Infrared Rays
  • Intraoperative Complications / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / diagnosis
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Melanoma / secondary*
  • Melanoma / surgery
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm, Residual / diagnosis
  • Neoplasm, Residual / pathology
  • Neoplasm, Residual / surgery
  • Scattering, Radiation
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Tomography / instrumentation*