Tiny new technology makes surgery easier

August 6, 2012 1:09:36 PM PDT
A new technology that's smaller than the tip of a pen is helping local doctors perform procedures in a more patient-friendly manner.

Deanne Sherman was a "newspaper pioneer" - one of the first full-time celebrity reporters.

She's interviewed Simon & Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin, and Liza Minelli before they were legends.

While Deanne wrote about the glamorous life of stars, she also struggled with chronic heartburn. After some tests, she got bad news.

"She said , 'You've got to have a big operation. You have Barrett's esophagus all over the place," Deanne explained.

Barrett's esophagus is a condition usually caused by acid reflux. Acid causes cells that line the esophagus to become irregular and from there, they can turn cancerous.

The doctor recommended radical surgery.

"Take your esophagus and attach your stomach to your throat," said Deanne.

Hoping for a less drastic solution, Deanne sought a second opinion with Dr. Bob Etemad of Lankenau Hospital.

Before doing any surgery, he wanted to examine her esophagus with Cellvizio. It is a flexible microscope on a laser fiber, smaller than the point of a pen. It goes through an endoscope, and down the esophagus.

Dr. Etemad says it's like having a lab, right in a patient's body.

"This allows us to optically biopsy multiple areas in the esophagus without removing it from the patient," he said.

The doctor sweeps Cellvizio back and forth across tissue, looking for suspicious cells. He can zoom in on areas, and remove any trouble spots - examining and treating at the same time.

The hospital's regular lab double-checks the samples. So far, Cellvizio has been 90 percent accurate.

"It offers the patient the hope that what we're taking out is all that has to be taken out," said Dr. Etemad.

For Deanne, instead of losing her whole esophagus, Dr. Etemad only had to remove small bits of the lining.

"It was less than one by one centimeter. It was very small," he said.

There was also no need for chemotherapy afterward, and there's been no cancer since.

"I've never had to walk on the face of the earth saying, 'I have cancer, I have cancer, what's he going to do to take it out," said Deanne.

Dr. Etemad says Cellvizio is also useful for diagnosing and treating some cancers in the colon, bile duct, and lung.

Lankenau was the first hospital in the area to have the device, but Temple University Hospital has one as well.

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