New surgical technology at Munson Medical Center “lights up” potentially cancerous lymph nodes in real time, helping save the lives of patients diagnosed with cervical and endometrial cancers.
Gynecologic oncologist David Michelin, M.D., M.P.H., says the hospital’s da Vinci Xi Surgical System offers minimally invasive surgery and magnified 3D high definition vision within a patient’s body. It has been complemented by Firefly technology, which adds an integrated fluorescence imaging component. Patients receive an injection of a fluorescent green dye that allows a surgeon to see which lymph nodes are draining a specific organ.
“After the dye is injected, we put the da Vinci camera into the near infrared spectrum and everything in the background is black while the sentinel lymph nodes are bright green,” Dr. Michelin says. The second patient he used the technology on had two lymph nodes near the aorta, one of which was glowing green. “Without the Firefly, I would not have removed them. But I took them both. Lab tests showed the green node was cancerous, the other was not.” Because the Firefly system identified the node, the spread of cancer was confirmed and the patient went into further treatment. “Firefly potentially will save the woman’s life,” Dr. Michelin adds.
The removing of “sentinel lymph nodes” has become best practice for gynecologic cancers just as with other types of cancer. Dr. Michelin says just taking three nodes cuts down significantly on the amount of time a patient is in the operating room and on anesthesia.
About 150 patients a year are treated for endometrial and cervical cancer at Munson Medical Center. The hospital is the only one in northern Michigan with the Firefly technology.