You’ve heard of smartphones, as well as other smart devices, but have you heard of a smart scalpel? One of the latest innovations in surgical technology, this scalpel can actually find cancerous tumors in the brain. While I wouldn’t want to be the first person to test this tool out, but the possibilities behind ideas like this are pretty amazing.
The term “smart scalpel” is quite catchy and intriguing, but it doesn’t exactly describe the functionality of this device. Developed by a researcher in Belgium, this smart device is more like a pointer of sorts that can be used to identify cancer. It contains a scanner and a circular tip that is only 1mm lengthwise. As you can imagine, distinguishing healthy brain tissue from cancerous tissue can be very tricky. Doctors most likely want to take their time to pinpoint exactly where the tumor is before doing any cutting.
The device hasn’t been tried on a human, yet, but it has been successfully tested on synthetic tumors and pig brains. The scalpel showed promise on both. The doctor simply passes the device over the brain and it identifies exactly where cancerous tumors are. A tool like this will not only save time, but would enable doctors to execute more precise incisions to human brains.
Since the smart scalpel was designed by humans for one purpose, finding cancerous tumors, it should be more efficient than a human. Today, although doctors are using technology like MRIs and ultrasounds to diagnose cancer, there are certain situations where a quick diagnosis could save a life. Since the brain is such a vital, sensitive organ, doctors must take the time to closely observe and use things like tissue manipulation tools to make their diagnosis, but both of these methods have their faults.
Even though surgeons may know where the tumor is located, this location can be lost in the time between opening the skull and making the actual incision. It takes an experienced surgeon to be able to stay calm and find the tumor again during the procedure. However, it’s not just experience that a surgeon needs to do this. Being able to keep track of where a tumor is also takes very good eyesight and an innate touch.
The smart scalpel has been in the works for six years. Right now, the scalpel can identify cancer in less than half a second. Its intended use would be to find tumors early on in their life when they look very similar to healthy tissue. Early diagnosis can be crucial to saving lives. The hope is that this device could be used in robotic surgeries, as well as modified to be used on other areas of the body.