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February 2014

Optical Imaging of Head and Neck CancerOpportunities and Challenges

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014;140(2):93-94. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2013.6166

There has been expansion in the use and development of optical imaging for cancer detection and surgical navigation over the past decade. New devices have been introduced in the clinic and operating room that are designed to measure native tissue fluorescence or injected fluorescent contrast agents. These technologies allow the surgeon to visualize subclinical foci of cancer and be less dependent on subjective measurements of tissue density and subtle changes in surface topography. For several reasons, head and neck cancer might be the proving ground for optical imaging: positive margins are frequent and associated with worsened outcomes, frozen sections are commonly used, and minimally invasive procedures limit the surgeon’s tactile feedback. As optical imaging technologies become available, it is our responsibility to test their efficacy, be skeptical of their potential benefits over existing techniques, and be aware of both the costs and safety risks.

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