Archive for the ‘Ultra Sound’ Category

2019 Trends in Cardiology

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN



A 40,000 Foot View of Trends in Cardiology

A 40,000 Foot View of Trends in Cardiology


I was recently asked about my thoughts on the big picture, over arching trends effecting cardiology. Here is the outline I gave them.


Cardiology Cost Drivers

Reimbursements from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and insurance providers drive trends for the adoption of new technologies. However, new technologies that can show empirical evidence for being able to improve outcomes at lower costs are being moved up for better payments. CMS and other insurers are also using a carrot and stick approach with increased use of CMS bundled payments. These give a flat fee for diagnosing and treating a heart attack or heart failure, rather than hospitals being paid for all the tests and procedures they did. This approach makes the hospitals want to find new ways to be more cost effective to increase their bottom lines to capture more of the bundled payment as revenue.


Heart failure makes up about a third or more of the costs to Medicare. This has caused CMS to look closely at what is driving costs, and really high readmission rates are mainly to blame. There are penalties or no reimbursements for patients who come back for repeat treatments because they were not managed properly the first time. New technologies to address heart failure and other chronic diseases are of major interest to DAIC readers. Many of these include information technology (IT) solutions, rather than treatment device technologies.


Other conditions like atrial fibrillation (AF) also drive up costs, so vendors are attempting to find better ways to diagnose and treat this condition. Current treatments are only effective in the first attempt in about 60 percent of patients.


Consolidation of Hospitals and Outside Physicians

This is a continuing trend where single hospitals or smaller hospital systems are being bought up by bigger fish to create economy of scale with larger healthcare systems. These often cover specific geographic areas and often cast a wide net to include some luminary hospitals, smaller community hospitals, immediate care centers and minute clinics inside drug partner pharmacies. Duplicate staff and services are sometimes eliminated after mergers and consolidation. Outside physicians, including cardiologists and radiologists, are also being brought into the fold as employees of the health systems, rather than the old model as outside contractors who have access to the hospital’s amenities.


While there is fear about consolidation, it can also offer advantages in many cases. This includes faster access to the newest technologies and devices through the system’s luminary hospitals, which can train staff at other hospitals, and more complex cases can be referred to the larger hospital. Read about this in more detail in the article “Hospital Consolidation May Increase Access to TAVR, New Cardiac Technologies.”
Trends in Cardiovascular Technologies

Any techniques and technologies that can improve outcomes, cut costs, reduce hospital length of stay or prevent readmissions can capture hospital and cardiologist attention in today’s healthcare environment. There has been a massive movement over the past two decades away from traditional open heart or vascular surgical procedures to catheter-based interventional procedures. This includes improvements in the durability and complexity of percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), reopening chronic total occlusions (CTOs)endovascular aortic repair (EVAR), expanded interest in treating peripheral artery disease (PAD), and structural heart cases that used to be the realm of the cardiac surgeon.


There is a major revolution and rapid uptake in transcatheter valve technologies to replace open heart surgery. Structural heart procedures to repair or replace failing heart valves have had positive clinical trial after positive trial over the last several years. Several key cardiac surgeons in the field say catheter based interventions will likely be the way of the future and surgical case volumes will see stead declines over the next decade.


The Role of Information Technology and AI in Cardiology

IT solutions are now increasingly being leveraged in more sophisticated ways since most hospitals have converted to integrated electronic medical records (EMRs) over the past decade. These allow all patient and departmental data to be accessible in one location. Analytics software is now being used to mine this data to identify workflow inefficiencies and areas to cut costs or improve charge capture. Clinical decision support (CDS) software to help hospitals and doctors better meet guideline-based care in all specialties is being introduced to help clinicians make better care decisions. This includes choosing appropriate tests and procedures in an effort to reduce costs or avoid tests that will not be reimbursed.


Artificial intelligence (AI) will be taking over many of the manual tasks for monitoring data and to answer questions more quickly. AI will also be used to alert administrators or doctors when it autonomously identifies a problem. Applications to watch also include AI to monitor population health in the background. This can identify patients at risk for various cardiovascular diseases before they present with any symptoms. The software also can identify patients who need extra care and counseling because of the high likelihood they will not be compliant with discharge orders and be readmitted. AI also will offer a second set of eyes on cardiac imaging to help identify anomalies or greatly reduce time by performing all the measurements automatically without human intervention.


This use of IT also includes patient portals to engage with patients and allow better access to their records and care. This is already starting to filter down to apps on smart phones to improve care, compliance with doctor’s orders and to aid diagnosis of conditions before they become problematic, such as heart failure and AF.


Cardiac Imaging Trends

Cardiac ultrasound (echo) remains the No.1 imaging modality in cardiology because of its broad availability, low cost and no radiation. However, computed tomography (CT) is poised to become the front-line imaging test for acute chest pain patients in the emergency department. It is also the gold standard for structural heart procedure planning, and the number of these cases is rapidly rising. CT fractional flow reserve (CT-FFR) technology is widely expected to become the main test for chest pain in the next decade, since it has the potential to save both time and money. CT-FFR also will become the primary gate-keeper to the cath lab to significantly lower, or possibly eliminate, the need for diagnostic catheter angiograms.


Cardiac MRI has seen numerous advances in recent years that cut imaging times by 50 percent and automate quantification, cutting the time to read and process these exams. MRI is expected to see and increase for cardiac exams in the coming years. MRI and CT-FFR may greatly reduce the number of nuclear exams, which are currently the gold standard for cardiac perfusion imaging.


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Ultrasounds for Improving Drug Delivery

Reporter: Danut Dragoi, PhD
Using the property of sounds to proppagate in aqueous media, such that in human body, researcher from MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have found a way to enable ultra-rapid delivery of drugs to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract  where this approach could make it easier to deliver drugs to patients suffering from GI disorders with inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.

As we know from Physics the speed of sound in liquids, for example in water is 1,507 m/sec at 30 C degrees which is greater than that in air, 340m/sec, we can call them ultrasounds. Any sounds in human fluid or fluid composite carries on an accoustic energy that can excert a pressure or movement to any molecule of disolved drugg, that usually has a good solubility in water. If the molecules dissolved in GI truct that belongs to a specific drug are under a sonic field they can be moved accordingly, increasing the probability to get inside the targeted cells to be cured by that specific drug.


Currently, GI diseases are usually treated with drugs administered as an enema, which must be maintained in the colon for hours while the drug is absorbed. However, this can be difficult for patients who are suffering from diarrhea and incontinence. To overcome that, the researchers sought a way to stimulate more rapid drug absorption. The novelty of drugg delivery efficiently using ultrasounds is that of an enhanced delivery.
Ultrasound improves drug delivery by a mechanism known as transient cavitation. When a fluid is exposed to sound waves, the waves induce the formation of tiny bubbles that implode and create micro-jets that can penetrate and push medication into tissue. In the study shown here , the researchers first tested their new approach in the pig GI tract, where they found that applying ultrasound greatly increased absorption of both insulin, a large protein, and mesalamine, a smaller molecule often used to treat colitis. In order to demonstrate a better treatment the researchers next investigated whether ultrasound-enhanced drug delivery could effectively treat disease in animals.

In tests of mice, the researchers found that they could resolve colitis symptoms by delivering mesalamine followed by one second of ultrasound every day for two weeks. Giving this treatment every other day also helped, but delivering the drug without ultrasound had no effect.
They also showed that ultrasound-enhanced delivery of insulin effectively lowered blood sugar levels in pigs.

It is worth mentioning that a modeling of ultrasound -induced micro-bubble oscillations in a capillary blood vessel exists here
in which a study is focused on the transient blood–brain barrier disruption (BBBD) for drug delivery applications.

In other studies, the ultrasound mediated drug delivery for cancer treatment is shown as a review of therapeutic ultrasound used to thermally ablate solid tumors since the 90s. A variety of cancers are presently being treated clinically, taking advantage of ultrasound- or MR-imaging guidance. A review summary of in vivo ultrasound-based strategies shows the deliver drug payloads to tumor environments, to enhance permeability of vessel walls and cell membranes, and to activate drugs and genes in situ.

An important physical effect of ultrasounds is their action decrease with the square distance from the source. In order to avoid increasing power of ultrasounds with negative effects on human body, the study shown in here considers the mechanisms responsible for how ultrasound and biological materials interact and how ultrasound-induced bio-effect or risk studies focus on issues related to the effects of ultrasound on biological materials. Whenever ultrasonic energy is propagated into an attenuating material such as tissue, the amplitude of the wave decreases with distance. The wave attenuation is due to either

  • absorption
  • or scattering

Absorption is a mechanism that represents that portion of ultrasonic wave that is converted into heat, and scattering can be thought of as that portion of the wave, which changes direction. Because the medium can absorb energy to produce heat, a temperature rise may occur as long as the rate of heat production is greater than the rate of heat removal. Current interest with thermally mediated ultrasound-induced bioeffects has focused on the thermal isoeffect concept. The non-thermal mechanism that has received the most attention is acoustically generated cavitation wherein ultrasonic energy by cavitation bubbles is concentrated. Acoustic cavitation, in a broad sense, refers to ultrasonically induced bubble activity occurring in a biological material that contains pre-existing gaseous inclusions. Cavitation-related mechanisms include radiation force, microstreaming, shock waves, free radicals, microjets and strain. It is more challenging to deduce the causes of mechanical effects in tissues that do not contain gas bodies.


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Imaging Technology in Cancer Surgery

Author and curator: Dror Nir, PhD

The advent of medical-imaging technologies such as image-fusion, functional-imaging and noninvasive tissue characterisation is playing an imperative role in answering this demand thus transforming the concept of personalized medicine in cancer into practice. The leading modality in that respect is medical imaging. To date, the main imaging systems that can provide reasonable level of cancer detection and localization are: CT, mammography, Multi-Sequence MRI, PET/CT and ultrasound. All of these require skilled operators and experienced imaging interpreters in order to deliver what is required at a reasonable level. It is generally agreed by radiologists and oncologists that in order to provide a comprehensive work-flow that complies with the principles of personalized medicine, future cancer patients’ management will heavily rely on computerized image interpretation applications that will extract from images in a standardized manner measurable imaging biomarkers leading to better clinical assessment of cancer patients.

As consequence of the human genome project and technological advances in gene-sequencing, the understanding of cancer advanced considerably. This led to increase in the offering of treatment options. Yet, surgical resection is still the leading form of therapy offered to patients with organ confined tumors. Obtaining “cancer free” surgical margins is crucial to the surgery outcome in terms of overall survival and patients’ quality of life/morbidity. Currently, a significant portion of surgeries ends up with positive surgical margins leading to poor clinical outcome and increase of costs. To improve on this, large variety of intraoperative imaging-devices aimed at resection-guidance have been introduced and adapted in the last decade and it is expected that this trend will continue.

The Status of Contemporary Image-Guided Modalities in Oncologic Surgery is a review paper presenting a variety of cancer imaging techniques that have been adapted or developed for intra-operative surgical guidance. It also covers novel, cancer-specific contrast agents that are in early stage development and demonstrate significant promise to improve real-time detection of sub-clinical cancer in operative setting.

Another good (free access) review paper is: uPAR-targeted multimodal tracer for pre- and intraoperative imaging in cancer surgery


Pre- and intraoperative diagnostic techniques facilitating tumor staging are of paramount importance in colorectal cancer surgery. The urokinase receptor (uPAR) plays an important role in the development of cancer, tumor invasion, angiogenesis, and metastasis and over-expression is found in the majority of carcinomas. This study aims to develop the first clinically relevant anti-uPAR antibody-based imaging agent that combines nuclear (111In) and real-time near-infrared (NIR) fluorescent imaging (ZW800-1). Conjugation and binding capacities were investigated and validated in vitro using spectrophotometry and cell-based assays. In vivo, three human colorectal xenograft models were used including an orthotopic peritoneal carcinomatosis model to image small tumors. Nuclear and NIR fluorescent signals showed clear tumor delineation between 24h and 72h post-injection, with highest tumor-to-background ratios of 5.0 ± 1.3 at 72h using fluorescence and 4.2 ± 0.1 at 24h with radioactivity. 1-2 mm sized tumors could be clearly recognized by their fluorescent rim. This study showed the feasibility of an uPAR-recognizing multimodal agent to visualize tumors during image-guided resections using NIR fluorescence, whereas its nuclear component assisted in the pre-operative non-invasive recognition of tumors using SPECT imaging. This strategy can assist in surgical planning and subsequent precision surgery to reduce the number of incomplete resections.

Diagnosis, staging, and surgical planning of colorectal cancer patients increasingly rely on imaging techniques that provide information about tumor biology and anatomical structures [1-3]. Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and positron emission tomography (PET) are preoperative nuclear imaging modalities used to provide insights into tumor location, tumor biology, and the surrounding micro-environment [4]. Both techniques depend on the recognition of tumor cells using radioactive ligands. Various monoclonal antibodies, initially developed as therapeutic agents (e.g. cetuximab, bevacizumab, labetuzumab), are labeled with radioactive tracers and evaluated for pre-operative imaging purposes [5-9]. Despite these techniques, during surgery the surgeons still rely mostly on their eyes and hands to distinguish healthy from malignant tissues, resulting in incomplete resections or unnecessary tissue removal in up to 27% of rectal cancer patients [10, 11]. Incomplete resections (R1) are shown to be a strong predictor of development of distant metastasis, local recurrence, and decreased survival of colorectal cancer patients [11, 12]. Fluorescence-guided surgery (FGS) is an intraoperative imaging technique already introduced and validated in the clinic for sentinel lymph node (SLN) mapping and biliary imaging [13]. Tumor-specific FGS can be regarded as an extension of SPECT/PET, using fluorophores instead of radioactive labels conjugated to tumor-specific ligands, but with higher spatial resolution than SPECT/PET imaging and real-time anatomical feedback [14]. A powerful synergy can be achieved when nuclear and fluorescent imaging modalities are combined, extending the nuclear diagnostic images with real-time intraoperative imaging. This combination can lead to improved diagnosis and management by integrating pre-intra and postoperative imaging. Nuclear imaging enables pre-operative evaluation of tumor spread while during surgery deeper lying spots can be localized using the gamma probe counter. The (NIR) fluorescent signal aids the surgeon in providing real-time anatomical feedback to accurately recognize and resect malignant tissues. Postoperative, malignant cells can be recognized using NIR fluorescent microscopy. Clinically, the advantages of multimodal agents in image-guided surgery have been shown in patients with melanoma and prostate cancer, but those studies used a-specific agents, following the natural lymph drainage pattern of colloidal tracers after peritumoral injection [15, 16]. The urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) is implicated in many aspects of tumor growth and (micro) metastasis [17, 18]. The levels of uPAR are undetectable in normal tissues except for occasional macrophages and granulocytes in the uterus, thymus, kidneys and spleen [19]. Enhanced tumor levels of uPAR and its circulating form (suPAR) are independent prognostic markers for overall survival in colorectal cancer patients [20, 21]. The relatively selective and high overexpression of uPAR in a wide range of human cancers including colorectal, breast, and pancreas nominate uPAR as a widely applicable and potent molecular target [17,22]. The current study aims to develop a clinically relevant uPAR-specific multimodal agent that can be used to visualize tumors pre- and intraoperatively after a single injection. We combined the 111Indium isotope with NIR fluorophore ZW800-1 using a hybrid linker to an uPAR specific monoclonal antibody (ATN-658) and evaluated its performance using a pre-clinical SPECT system (U-SPECT-II) and a clinically-applied NIR fluorescence camera system (FLARE™).

Fig1 Fig2 Fig3

Robotic surgery is a growing trend as a form of surgery, specifically in urology. The following review paper propose a good discussion on the added value of imaging in urologic robotic surgery:

The current and future use of imaging in urological robotic surgery: a survey of the European Association of Robotic Urological Surgeons



With the development of novel augmented reality operating platforms the way surgeons utilize imaging as a real-time adjunct to surgical technique is changing.


A questionnaire was distributed via the European Robotic Urological Society mailing list. The questionnaire had three themes: surgeon demographics, current use of imaging and potential uses of an augmented reality operating environment in robotic urological surgery.


117 of the 239 respondents (48.9%) were independently practicing robotic surgeons. 74% of surgeons reported having imaging available in theater for prostatectomy 97% for robotic partial nephrectomy and 95% cystectomy. 87% felt there was a role for augmented reality as a navigation tool in robotic surgery.


This survey has revealed the contemporary robotic surgeon to be comfortable in the use of imaging for intraoperative planning it also suggests that there is a desire for augmented reality platforms within the urological community. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


Since Röntgen first utilized X-rays to image the carpal bones of the human hand in 1895, medical imaging has evolved and is now able to provide a detailed representation of a patient’s intracorporeal anatomy, with recent advances now allowing for 3-dimensional (3D) reconstructions. The visualization of anatomy in 3D has been shown to improve the ability to localize structures when compared with 2D with no change in the amount of cognitive loading [1]. This has allowed imaging to move from a largely diagnostic tool to one that can be used for both diagnosis and operative planning.

One potential interface to display 3D images, to maximize its potential as a tool for surgical guidance, is to overlay them onto the endoscopic operative scene (augmented reality). This addresses, in part, a criticism often leveled at robotic surgery, the loss of haptic feedback. Augmented reality has the potential to mitigate this sensory loss by enhancing the surgeons visual cues with information regarding subsurface anatomical relationships [2].

Augmented reality surgery is in its infancy for intra-abdominal procedures due in large part to the difficulties of applying static preoperative imaging to a constantly deforming intraoperative scene [3]. There are case reports and ex vivo studies in the literature examining the technology in minimal access prostatectomy [3-6] and partial nephrectomy [7-10], but there remains a lack of evidence determining whether surgeons feel there is a role for the technology and if so for what procedures they feel it would be efficacious.

This questionnaire-based study was designed to assess first, the pre- and intra-operative imaging modalities utilized by robotic urologists; second, the current use of imaging intraoperatively for surgical planning; and finally whether there is a desire for augmented reality among the robotic urological community.



A web based survey instrument was designed and sent out, as part of a larger survey, to members of the EAU robotic urology section (ERUS). Only independently practicing robotic surgeons performing robot-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy (RALP), robot-assisted partial nephrectomy (RAPN) and/or robotic cystectomy were included in the analysis, those surgeons exclusively performing other procedures were excluded. Respondents were offered no incentives to reply. All data collected was anonymous.

Survey design and administration

The questionnaire was created using the LimeSurvey platform ( and hosted on their website. All responses (both complete and incomplete) were included in the analysis. The questionnaire was dynamic with the questions displayed tailored to the respondents’ previous answers.

When computing fractions or percentages the denominator was the number of respondents to answer the question, this number is variable due to the dynamic nature of the questionnaire.


All respondents to the survey were asked in what country they practiced and what robotic urological procedures they performed. In addition to what procedures they performed surgeons were asked to specify the number of cases they had undertaken for each procedure.

 Current imaging practice

Procedure-specific questions in this group were displayed according to the operations the respondent performed. A summary of the questions can be seen in Appendix 1. Procedure-nonspecific questions were also asked. Participants were asked whether they routinely used the Tile Pro™ function of the da Vinci console (Intuitive Surgical, Sunnyvale, USA) and whether they routinely viewed imaging intra-operatively.

 Augmented reality

Before answering questions in this section, participants were invited to watch a video demonstrating an augmented reality platform during RAPN, performed by our group at Imperial College London. A still from this video can be seen in Figure 1. They were then asked whether they felt augmented reality would be of use as a navigation or training tool in robotic surgery.


Figure 1. A still taken from a video of augmented reality robot assisted partial nephrectomy performed. Here the tumour has been painted into the operative view allowing the surgeon to appreciate the relationship of the tumour with the surface of the kidney

Once again, in this section, procedure-specific questions were displayed according to the operations the respondent performed. Only those respondents who felt augmented reality would be of use as a navigation tool were asked procedure-specific questions. Questions were asked to establish where in these procedures they felt an augmented reality environment would be of use.



Of the 239 respondents completing the survey 117 were independently practising robotic surgeons and were therefore eligible for analysis. The majority of the surgeons had both trained (210/239, 87.9%) and worked in Europe (215/239, 90%). The median number of cases undertaken by those surgeons reporting their case volume was: 120 (6–2000), 9 (1–120) and 30 (1–270), for RALP, robot assisted cystectomy and RAPN, respectively.


Contemporary use of imaging in robotic surgery

When enquiring about the use of imaging for surgical planning, the majority of surgeons (57%, 65/115) routinely viewed pre-operative imaging intra-operatively with only 9% (13/137) routinely capitalizing on the TilePro™ function in the console to display these images. When assessing the use of TilePro™ among surgeons who performed RAPN 13.8% (9/65) reported using the technology routinely.

When assessing the imaging modalities that are available to a surgeon in theater the majority of surgeons performing RALP (74%, 78/106)) reported using MRI with an additional 37% (39/106) reporting the use of CT for pre-operative staging and/or planning. For surgeons performing RAPN and robot-assisted cystectomy there was more of a consensus with 97% (68/70) and 95% (54/57) of surgeons, respectively, using CT for routine preoperative imaging (Table 1).

Table 1. Which preoperative imaging modalities do you use for diagnosis and surgical planning?

  CT MRI USS None Other
RALP (n = 106) 39.8% 73.5% 2% 15.1% 8.4%
(39) (78) (3) (16) (9)
RAPN (n = 70) 97.1% 42.9% 17.1% 0% 2.9%
(68) (30) (12) (0) (2)
Cystectomy (n = 57) 94.7% 26.3% 1.8% 1.8% 5.3%
(54) (15) (1) (1) (3)

Those surgeons performing RAPN were found to have the most diversity in the way they viewed pre-operative images in theater, routinely viewing images in sagittal, coronal and axial slices (Table 2). The majority of these surgeons also viewed the images as 3D reconstructions (54%, 38/70).

Table 2. How do you typically view preoperative imaging in the OR? 3D recons = three-dimensional reconstructions

  Axial slices (n) Coronal slices (n) Sagittal slices (n) 3D recons. (n) Do not view (n)  
RALP (n = 106) 49.1% 44.3% 31.1% 9.4% 31.1%
(52) (47) (33) (10) (33)
RAPN (n = 70) 68.6% 74.3% 60% (42) 54.3% 0%
(48) (52) (38) (0)
Cystectomy (n = 57) 70.2% 52.6% 50.9% 21.1% 8.8%
(40) (30) (29) (12) (5)

The majority of surgeons used ultrasound intra-operatively in RAPN (51%, 35/69) with a further 25% (17/69) reporting they would use it if they had access to a ‘drop-in’ ultrasound probe (Figure 2).


Figure 2. Chart demonstrating responses to the question – Do you use intraoperative ultrasound for robotic partial nephrectomy?

Desire for augmented reality

Overall, 87% of respondents envisaged a role for augmented reality as a navigation tool in robotic surgery and 82% (88/107) felt that there was an additional role for the technology as a training tool.

The greatest desire for augmented reality was among those surgeons performing RAPN with 86% (54/63) feeling the technology would be of use. The largest group of surgeons felt it would be useful in identifying tumour location, with significant numbers also feeling it would be efficacious in tumor resection (Figure 3).


Figure 3. Chart demonstrating responses to the question – In robotic partial nephrectomy which parts of the operation do you feel augmented reality image overlay would be of assistance?

When enquiring about the potential for augmented reality in RALP, 79% (20/96) of respondents felt it would be of use during the procedure, with the largest group feeling it would be helpful for nerve sparing 65% (62/96) (Figure 4). The picture in cystectomy was similar with 74% (37/50) of surgeons believing augmented reality would be of use, with both nerve sparing and apical dissection highlighted as specific examples (40%, 20/50) (Figure 5). The majority also felt that it would be useful for lymph node dissection in both RALP and robot assisted cystectomy (55% (52/95) and 64% (32/50), respectively).


Figure 4. Chart demonstrating responses to the question – In robotic prostatectomy which parts of the operation do you feel augmented reality image overlay would be of assistance?


Figure 5. Chart demonstrating responses to the question – In robotic cystectomy which parts of the operation do you feel augmented reality overlay technology would be of assistance?


The results from this study suggest that the contemporary robotic surgeon views imaging as an important adjunct to operative practice. The way these images are being viewed is changing; although the majority of surgeons continue to view images as two-dimensional (2D) slices a significant minority have started to capitalize on 3D reconstructions to give them an improved appreciation of the patient’s anatomy.

This study has highlighted surgeons’ willingness to take the next step in the utilization of imaging in operative planning, augmented reality, with 87% feeling it has a role to play in robotic surgery. Although there appears to be a considerable desire for augmented reality, the technology itself is still in its infancy with the limited evidence demonstrating clinical application reporting only qualitative results [3, 7, 11, 12].

There are a number of significant issues that need to be overcome before augmented reality can be adopted in routine clinical practice. The first of these is registration (the process by which two images are positioned in the same coordinate system such that the locations of corresponding points align [13]). This process has been performed both manually and using automated algorithms with varying degrees of accuracy [2, 14]. The second issue pertains to the use of static pre-operative imaging in a dynamic operative environment; in order for the pre-operative imaging to be accurately registered it must be deformable. This problem remains as yet unresolved.

Live intra-operative imaging circumvents the problems of tissue deformation and in RAPN 51% of surgeons reported already using intra-operative ultrasound to aid in tumour resection. Cheung and colleagues [9] have published an ex vivo study highlighting the potential for intra-operative ultrasound in augmented reality partial nephrectomy. They report the overlaying of ultrasound onto the operative scene to improve the surgeon’s appreciation of the subsurface tumour anatomy, this improvement in anatomical appreciation resulted in improved resection quality over conventional ultrasound guided resection [9]. Building on this work the first in vivo use of overlaid ultrasound in RAPN has recently been reported [10]. Although good subjective feedback was received from the operating surgeon, the study was limited to a single case demonstrating feasibility and as such was not able to show an outcome benefit to the technology [10].

RAPN also appears to be the area in which augmented reality would be most readily adopted with 86% of surgeons claiming they see a use for the technology during the procedure. Within this operation there are two obvious steps to augmentation, anatomical identification (in particular vessel identification to facilitate both routine ‘full clamping’ and for the identification of secondary and tertiary vessels for ‘selective clamping’ [15]) and tumour resection. These two phases have different requirements from an augmented reality platform; the first phase of identification requires a gross overview of the anatomy without the need for high levels of registration accuracy. Tumor resection, however, necessitates almost sub-millimeter accuracy in registration and needs the system to account for the dynamic intra-operative environment. The step of anatomical identification is amenable to the use of non-deformable 3D reconstructions of pre-operative imaging while that of image-guided tumor resection is perhaps better suited to augmentation with live imaging such as ultrasound [2, 9, 16].

For RALP and robot-assisted cystectomy the steps in which surgeons felt augmented reality would be of assistance were those of neurovascular bundle preservation and apical dissection. The relative, perceived, efficacy of augmented reality in these steps correlate with previous examinations of augmented reality in RALP [17, 18]. Although surgeon preference for utilizing augmented reality while undertaking robotic prostatectomy has been demonstrated, Thompson et al. failed to demonstrate an improvement in oncological outcomes in those patients undergoing AR RALP [18].

Both nerve sparing and apical dissection require a high level of registration accuracy and a necessity for either live imaging or the deformation of pre-operative imaging to match the operative scene; achieving this level of registration accuracy is made more difficult by the mobilization of the prostate gland during the operation [17]. These problems are equally applicable to robot-assisted cystectomy. Although guidance systems have been proposed in the literature for RALP [3-5, 12, 17], none have achieved the level of accuracy required to provide assistance during nerve sparing. In addition, there are still imaging challenges that need to be overcome. Although multiparametric MRI has been shown to improve decision making in opting for a nerve sparing approach to RALP [19] the imaging is not yet able to reliably discern the exact location of the neurovascular bundle. This said, significant advances are being made with novel imaging modalities on the horizon that may allow for imaging of the neurovascular bundle in the near future [20].



The number of operations included represents a significant limitation of the study, had different index procedures been chosen different results may have been seen. This being said the index procedures selected were chosen as they represent the vast majority of uro-oncological robotic surgical practice, largely mitigating for this shortfall.

Although the available ex vivo evidence suggests that introducing augmented reality operating environments into surgical practice would help to improve outcomes [9, 21] the in vivo experience to date is limited to small volume case series reporting feasibility [2, 3, 14]. To date no study has demonstrated an in vivo outcome advantage to augmented reality guidance. In addition to this limitation augmented reality has been demonstrated to increased rates of inattention blindness among surgeons suggesting there is a trade-off between increasing visual information and the surgeon’s ability to appreciate unexpected operative events [21].



This survey shows the contemporary robotic surgeon to be comfortable with the use of imaging to aid intra-operative planning; furthermore it highlights a significant interest among the urological community in augmented reality operating platforms.

Short- to medium-term development of augmented reality systems in robotic urology surgery would be best performed using RAPN as the index procedure. Not only was this the operation where surgeons saw the greatest potential benefits, but it may also be the operation where it is most easily achievable by capitalizing on the respective benefits of technologies the surgeons are already using; pre-operative CT for anatomical identification and intra-operative ultrasound for tumour resection.


Conflict of interest

None of the authors have any conflicts of interest to declare.

Appendix 1

Question Asked Question Type
In which country do you usually practise? Single best answer
Which robotic procedures do you perform?* Single best answer
Current Imaging Practice
What preoperative imaging modalities do you use for the staging and surgical planning in renal cancer? Multiple choice
How do you typically view preoperative imaging in theatre for renal cancer surgery? Multiple choice
Do you use intraoperative ultrasound for partial nephrectomy? Yes or No
What preoperative imaging modalities do you use for the staging and surgical planning in prostate cancer? Multiple choice
How do you typically view preoperative imaging in theatre for prostate cancer? Multiple choice
Do you use intraoperative ultrasound for robotic partial nephrectomy? Yes or No
Which preoperative imaging modality do you use for staging and surgical planning in muscle invasive TCC? Multiple choice
How do you typically view preoperative imaging in theatre for muscle invasive TCC? Multiple choice
Do you routinely refer to preoperative imaging intraoperativley? Yes or No
Do you routinely use Tilepro intraoperativley? Yes or No
Augmented Reality
Do you feel there is a role for augmented reality as a navigation tool in robotic surgery? Yes or No
Do you feel there is a role for augmented reality as a training tool in robotic surgery? Yes or No
In robotic partial nephrectomy which parts of the operation do you feel augmented reality image overlay technology would be of assistance? Multiple choice
In robotic nephrectomy which parts of the operation do you feel augmented reality image overlay technology would be of assistance? Multiple choice
In robotic prostatectomy which parts of the operation do you feel augmented reality image overlay technology would be of assistance? Multiple choice
Would augmented reality guidance be of use in lymph node dissection in robotic prostatectomy? Yes or No
In robotic cystectomy which parts of the operation do you feel augmented reality image overlay technology would be of assistance? Multiple choice
Would augmented reality guidance be of use in lymph node dissection in robotic cystectomy? Yes or No
*The relevant procedure related questions were displayed based on the answer to this question


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Imaging-guided cancer treatment

Imaging-guided cancer treatment

Writer & reporter: Dror Nir, PhD

It is estimated that the medical imaging market will exceed $30 billion in 2014 (FierceMedicalImaging). To put this amount in perspective; the global pharmaceutical market size for the same year is expected to be ~$1 trillion (IMS) while the global health care spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will average 10.5% globally in 2014 (Deloitte); it will reach ~$3 trillion in the USA.

Recent technology-advances, mainly miniaturization and improvement in electronic-processing components is driving increased introduction of innovative medical-imaging devices into critical nodes of major-diseases’ management pathways. Consequently, in contrast to it’s very small contribution to global health costs, medical imaging bears outstanding potential to reduce the future growth in spending on major segments in this market mainly: Drugs development and regulation (e.g. companion diagnostics and imaging surrogate markers); Disease management (e.g. non-invasive diagnosis, guided treatment and non-invasive follow-ups); and Monitoring aging-population (e.g. Imaging-based domestic sensors).

In; The Role of Medical Imaging in Personalized Medicine I discussed in length the role medical imaging assumes in drugs development.  Integrating imaging into drug development processes, specifically at the early stages of drug discovery, as well as for monitoring drug delivery and the response of targeted processes to the therapy is a growing trend. A nice (and short) review highlighting the processes, opportunities, and challenges of medical imaging in new drug development is: Medical imaging in new drug clinical development.

The following is dedicated to the role of imaging in guiding treatment.

Precise treatment is a major pillar of modern medicine. An important aspect to enable accurate administration of treatment is complementing the accurate identification of the organ location that needs to be treated with a system and methods that ensure application of treatment only, or mainly to, that location. Imaging is off-course, a major component in such composite systems. Amongst the available solution, functional-imaging modalities are gaining traction. Specifically, molecular imaging (e.g. PET, MRS) allows the visual representation, characterization, and quantification of biological processes at the cellular and subcellular levels within intact living organisms. In oncology, it can be used to depict the abnormal molecules as well as the aberrant interactions of altered molecules on which cancers depend. Being able to detect such fundamental finger-prints of cancer is key to improved matching between drugs-based treatment and disease. Moreover, imaging-based quantified monitoring of changes in tumor metabolism and its microenvironment could provide real-time non-invasive tool to predict the evolution and progression of primary tumors, as well as the development of tumor metastases.

A recent review-paper: Image-guided interventional therapy for cancer with radiotherapeutic nanoparticles nicely illustrates the role of imaging in treatment guidance through a comprehensive discussion of; Image-guided radiotherapeutic using intravenous nanoparticles for the delivery of localized radiation to solid cancer tumors.

 Graphical abstract


One of the major limitations of current cancer therapy is the inability to deliver tumoricidal agents throughout the entire tumor mass using traditional intravenous administration. Nanoparticles carrying beta-emitting therapeutic radionuclides [DN: radioactive isotops that emits electrons as part of the decay process a list of β-emitting radionuclides used in radiotherapeutic nanoparticle preparation is given in table1 of this paper.) that are delivered using advanced image-guidance have significant potential to improve solid tumor therapy. The use of image-guidance in combination with nanoparticle carriers can improve the delivery of localized radiation to tumors. Nanoparticles labeled with certain beta-emitting radionuclides are intrinsically theranostic agents that can provide information regarding distribution and regional dosimetry within the tumor and the body. Image-guided thermal therapy results in increased uptake of intravenous nanoparticles within tumors, improving therapy. In addition, nanoparticles are ideal carriers for direct intratumoral infusion of beta-emitting radionuclides by convection enhanced delivery, permitting the delivery of localized therapeutic radiation without the requirement of the radionuclide exiting from the nanoparticle. With this approach, very high doses of radiation can be delivered to solid tumors while sparing normal organs. Recent technological developments in image-guidance, convection enhanced delivery and newly developed nanoparticles carrying beta-emitting radionuclides will be reviewed. Examples will be shown describing how this new approach has promise for the treatment of brain, head and neck, and other types of solid tumors.

The challenges this review discusses

  • intravenously administered drugs are inhibited in their intratumoral penetration by high interstitial pressures which prevent diffusion of drugs from the blood circulation into the tumor tissue [1–5].
  • relatively rapid clearance of intravenously administered drugs from the blood circulation by kidneys and liver.
  • drugs that do reach the solid tumor by diffusion are inhomogeneously distributed at the micro-scale – This cannot be overcome by simply administering larger systemic doses as toxicity to normal organs is generally the dose limiting factor.
  • even nanoparticulate drugs have poor penetration from the vascular compartment into the tumor and the nanoparticles that do penetrate are most often heterogeneously distributed

How imaging could mitigate the above mentioned challenges

  • The inclusion of an imaging probe during drug development can aid in determining the clearance kinetics and tissue distribution of the drug non-invasively. Such probe can also be used to determine the likelihood of the drug reaching the tumor and to what extent.

Note: Drugs that have increased accumulation within the targeted site are likely to be more effective as compared with others. In that respect, Nanoparticle-based drugs have an additional advantage over free drugs with their potential to be multifunctional carriers capable of carrying both therapeutic and diagnostic imaging probes (theranostic) in the same nanocarrier. These multifunctional nanoparticles can serve as theranostic agents and facilitate personalized treatment planning.

  • Imaging can also be used for localization of the tumor to improve the placement of a catheter or external device within tumors to cause cell death through thermal ablation or oxidative stress secondary to reactive oxygen species.

See the example of Vintfolide in The Role of Medical Imaging in Personalized Medicine


Note: Image guided thermal ablation methods include radiofrequency (RF) ablation, microwave ablation or high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). Photodynamic therapy methods using external light devices to activate photosensitizing agents can also be used to treat superficial tumors or deeper tumors when used with endoscopic catheters.

  • Quality control during and post treatment

For example: The use of high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) combined with nanoparticle therapeutics: HIFU is applied to improve drug delivery and to trigger drug release from nanoparticles. Gas-bubbles are playing the role of the drug’s nano-carrier. These are used both to increase the drug transport into the cell and as ultrasound-imaging contrast material. The ultrasound is also used for processes of drug-release and ablation.


Additional example; Multifunctional nanoparticles for tracking CED (convection enhanced delivery)  distribution within tumors: Nanoparticle that could serve as a carrier not only for the therapeutic radionuclides but simultaneously also for a therapeutic drug and 4 different types of imaging contrast agents including an MRI contrast agent, PET and SPECT nuclear diagnostic imaging agents and optical contrast agents as shown below. The ability to perform multiple types of imaging on the same nanoparticles will allow studies investigating the distribution and retention of nanoparticles initially in vivo using non-invasive imaging and later at the histological level using optical imaging.



Image-guided radiotherapeutic nanoparticles have significant potential for solid tumor cancer therapy. The current success of this therapy in animals is most likely due to the improved accumulation, retention and dispersion of nanoparticles within solid tumor following image-guided therapies as well as the micro-field of the β-particle which reduces the requirement of perfectly homogeneous tumor coverage. It is also possible that the intratumoral distribution of nanoparticles may benefit from their uptake by intratumoral macrophages although more research is required to determine the importance of this aspect of intratumoral radionuclide nanoparticle therapy. This new approach to cancer therapy is a fertile ground for many new technological developments as well as for new understandings in the basic biology of cancer therapy. The clinical success of this approach will depend on progress in many areas of interdisciplinary research including imaging technology, nanoparticle technology, computer and robot assisted image-guided application of therapies, radiation physics and oncology. Close collaboration of a wide variety of scientists and physicians including chemists, nanotechnologists, drug delivery experts, radiation physicists, robotics and software experts, toxicologists, surgeons, imaging physicians, and oncologists will best facilitate the implementation of this novel approach to the treatment of cancer in the clinical environment. Image-guided nanoparticle therapies including those with β-emission radionuclide nanoparticles have excellent promise to significantly impact clinical cancer therapy and advance the field of drug delivery.

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Massachusetts, the new Home for US Life Sciences of GE Healthcare

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN




GE Healthcare to Open US Life Sciences HQ in Massachusetts




NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – GE Healthcare Life Sciences will open a new US headquarters for GE Healthcare Life Sciences in Marlborough, Mass., according to a statement released today by the firm and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

The 160,000 square-foot facility is expected to open in the spring of 2015. GE said that it will invest $21 million in the site, which will house 500 GE Healthcare Life Science employees, including more than 220 new jobs. It said that the currently unoccupied space will be transformed into state-of-the-art labs, customer application facilities, and office space, and it will complement GE Healthcare Life Sciences’ existing manufacturing facilities in Westborough, Mass.

The new headquarters will consolidate GE Healthcare Life Sciences’ US East Coast presence and include employees from across the

  • life sciences business, including
  • research,
  • bioprocessing,
  • medical imaging,
  • in vitro diagnostics, and
  • services.

“Our new facility in Massachusetts will position us for continued innovation and competition in such a fast-paced, innovative industry,” Kieran Murphy, president and CEO of GE Healthcare Life Sciences, said in the statement. “We will be close to industry-leading talent, customers, and world-class academic and medical institutions across all the industry sectors we serve, from

  • biotech and pharma, to
  • diagnostics and
  • medical devices.”

GE Healthcare Life Sciences generates around $4 billion in annual revenues from the sale of

  • research tools aimed at accelerating molecular medicine, as well as for
  • basic research of cells and proteins,
  • drug discovery,
  • cell therapies, and
  • regenerative medicine.

The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center is a $1 billion state-funded effort to support life sciences research, development, and commercialization in Massachusetts.




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