Ten patients with prostate cancer have undergone robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery involving the removal of tumours and suspect lymph nodes. The surgery was performed at Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hospital. The surgeon detected the lymph nodes using the DROP-IN gamma probe developed by the researchers. An initial test in February had already demonstrated that the detector accurately tracks down lymph nodes labelled with radioactivity and fluorescence prior to surgery. Tests conducted in a larger group of patients have now confirmed this result.
The researchers say that the flexible gamma probe has several advantages. During laparoscopic surgery, surgical instruments are inserted in the patient through tiny openings. The 'old-fashioned' gamma probe is a long, rigid stick, whereas the new DROP-IN probe consists of a small detector attached to a flexible cable. It can therefore detect signals in all directions.
In addition, it is now possible to insert other surgical instruments into the same opening used for the DROP-IN gamma probe. The old-style gamma probe blocks the entire opening. The rigid nature of the old probe also means that it must be operated by a surgical assistant at the surgeon's instruction. Now, the surgical assistant inserts the DROP-IN gamma probe into the patient and the surgeon takes over operating the probe with the surgical robot's arm.