Near Infrared Goggles for Image Guided Surgery

Cancer cells are notoriously difficult to see, even under high magnification. Until now, it’s been nearly impossible for operating surgeons — using only static MRIs and X-rays as a guide — to tell where the tumor ends and healthy tissue begins.

To care for patients, surgeons today remove the tumor and neighboring tissue, which may or may not include cancer cells. The samples are sent to a pathology lab and viewed under a microscope. If the surrounding tissue contains cancer cells, a second surgery is performed to remove even more tissue, which also is checked for the presence of cancer. About 20 to 25 percent of breast cancer patients who have lumps removed require a second surgery. It’s a balancing act — surgeons don’t want to remove too much or too little surrounding tissue.

To aid in the quest of "leaving no cancerous cell behind," we have developed high-tech glasses that help surgeons visualize cancer cells, which glow blue when viewed through the eyewear. We used combination of miniature cameras, optical elements and FPGA for real-time processing to construct a wearable platform that surgeons can use in the operating room.


Prof Viktor Gruev and doctoral student Shenkgui Gao with a prototype of the goggle.

The wearable technology  was used during surgery for the first time Feb. 10 at Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.


Video components in the glasses allow surgeries to be recorded. As only a small number of observing medical students can fit into an operating room, the recordings could serve as a useful teaching tool in a larger auditorium. There also may be applications that could help guide physicians practicing in remote areas.