Due to loss of tactile feedback the assessment of tumor margins during robotic surgery is based only on visual inspection, which is neither significantly sensitive nor specific. Here we demonstrate time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy (TRFS) as a novel technique to complement the visual inspection of oral cancers during transoral robotic surgery (TORS) in real-time and without the need for exogenous contrast agents. TRFS enables identification of cancerous tissue by its distinct autofluorescence signature that is associated with the alteration of tissue structure and biochemical profile. A prototype TRFS instrument was integrated synergistically with the da Vinci Surgical robot and the combined system was validated in swine and human patients. Label-free and real-time assessment and visualization of tissue biochemical features during robotic surgery procedure, as demonstrated here, not only has the potential to improve the intraoperative decision making during TORS but also other robotic procedures without modification of conventional clinical protocols.
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