Community Hospital using new imaging technology

Dr. Courtney Fulton
Dr. Courtney Fulton

Community Hospital in Grand Junction now offers new technology designed to help better visualize intricate anatomy during surgery.

Dr. Courtney Fulton, a surgeon at Community Hospital, uses what’s known as the SPY portable hand- held imaging system during breast cancer, melanoma and gallbladder surgery.

“SPY-PHI is a visually accurate tool that allows surgeons to see pathways much more vividly,” Fulton said. “We are extremely fortunate to have access to this level of new technology on the Western Slope, and we are very excited to offer it to patients at Community Hospital.”

Community Hospital is the first and only hospital on the Western Slope to offer the technology.

The device uses infrared fluorescence imaging to allow real-time measurement of tissue perfusion to help reduce complications during breast cancer surgery and other advanced surgeries. Fluorescence imaging has also been used to identify when abnormal cancer cells migrate to nearby lymph nodes.

In breast cancer patients, lymph node mapping is useful in determining whether or not cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Lymph node mapping also helps the surgeon determine the stage of breast cancer as well as the best course of treatment to prevent recurrence.

By performing lymph node mapping using fluorescent imaging and SPY-PHI, a surgeon can precisely trace the lymphatic system to see if a cancer has metastasized. Typically, when breast cancer spreads away from a tumor, the first place it reaches is a sentinel lymph node in the underarm area.

Using fluorescent imaging, a surgeon injects a small amount of nontoxic indocyanine green dye into or near the tumor in the breast, then traces its path using infrared light. Once the sentinel node is identified, the surgeon removes it and sends it to a pathologist for evaluation. If abnormal cells are not present in the sentinel node, then it’s unlikely other nodes are cancerous, reducing the need for further lymph node removal.