March 1997

Otorhinolaryngologic Computer-Assisted Biopsies of the Iceman

Author Affiliations

From the Ear, Nose, and Throat Department, University Hospital Innsbruck, Innsbruck (Drs Gunkel, Freysinger, and Thumfart), ARTMA Medizintechnik GmbH, Vienna (Dr Truppe), and the Institutes of Anatomy (Drs Gaber, Künzel, and Platzer) and Hygiene (Dr Tiefenbrunner), University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1997;123(3):253-256. doi:10.1001/archotol.1997.01900030015002

Background:  The Iceman is a prehistoric, completely preserved, 5300-year-old male human mummy.

Objective:  To obtain the first biopsy specimens from inside the Iceman while meeting an extended standard of hygiene and following precise intraoperative guidance to the site of biopsy and keeping tissue damage to a minimum.

Design:  Biopsy specimens from the nose, the maxillary sinus, and the larynx of the Iceman were obtained. Special caution had to be taken while performing the biopsies to not contaminate the Iceman with heavy metals or remnants of microorganisms.

Subject:  The Iceman, a cadaver kept frozen in a glacier for 5300 years. The Iceman is in an excellent state of preservation and will allow fundamental histological, morphological, and molecular genetic insights into early man.

Intervention:  The biopsies were planned and executed with the aid of Interventional Video Tomography, a system that guides the surgeon to the target area by combining live video with existing imaging modalities. The system does not need mechanical fixation of the subject (the Iceman) and is barely in physical contact with the subject; thus, it was the ideal tool for guiding the surgeon to the site of the biopsy samplings through a tiny canal into the nose, the maxillary sinus, and the larynx of the Iceman.

Results:  We have obtained a number of tissue samples by precisely guided 3-dimensional navigation. Unnecessary tissue damage was avoided.

Conclusions:  Visual inspection of the extracted mucosa showed typical human cadaver tissue, despite its age, without clinical abnormalities. Currently, the samples are being investigated by various international scientific groups.Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1997;123:253-256