Handheld Photoacoustic Device for Lymph Node Assessment


Researchers at South Korea’s Pohang University of Science and Technology have created a handheld photoacoustic gadget that can detect sentinel lymph nodes near the armpit.

When testing for breast cancer metastases, the technology could assist clinicians in locating the precise lymph node from which to conduct a biopsy. Because this technique currently entails the use of radioactive probes, the current approach can assist patients and healthcare workers in avoiding radiation exposure.

The lymph system serves as a convenient route for malignancies to spread throughout the body. When it comes to forming metastases, breast tumors and melanoma frequently travel through the lymphatic system, therefore this tissue is an important place to look for them. A sentinel lymph node is the first node to which cancer cells are anticipated to spread, typically because it is one of the first few nodes into which a tumor empties. A biopsy of the sentinel node can reveal whether or not a malignancy has progressed to the lymph system.

However, a practitioner must first locate a sentinel node before proceeding with a biopsy. Clinicians often give a radioactive tracer near the tumor and then use a detector to determine which lymph nodes it localizes to to establish which lymph nodes are the sentinel node(s). This isn’t ideal because it exposes patients and healthcare workers to radiation and necessitates the use of specific facilities and equipment.

Pohang University’s innovative technology does not use radiation and instead depends on the photoacoustic effect. A transparent ultrasonic transducer and a solid-state dye laser are used in the gadget. It can use the laser to irradiate a colored dye-containing region of tissue, resulting in a photoacoustic effect, the ultrasonic waves from which are recorded by the transducer. A user would inject a non-radioactive dye near the tumor and then use the new technology to assess neighboring lymph nodes to locate a sentinel lymph node.

The Korean researchers have only tested the device on mice, but they were able to correctly find a sentinel lymph node in their arm. They also tested the device’s ability to detect melanoma in mice, and the tumors were successfully recognized, implying that the system can detect pigmented malignant tumors near the skin’s surface.

In a press release, Chulhong Kim, a researcher participating in the study, said, “We believe the photoacoustic finder system we have suggested is the first portable photoacoustic sensing tool for sentinel lymph node localization.” “This technique has a lot of promise for detecting sentinel lymph nodes or melanoma in the future without utilizing radioactive substances.”

A photoacoustic finder fully integrated with a solid-state dye laser and transparent ultrasound transducer has been published in the journal Photoacoustics.

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