Smart sensors for image guidance during surgery

Smart electromagnetic sensor technology for surgical navigation

Within the project, they will develop smart electromagnetic sensors that allow patient and organ tracking during surgery. This will be accomplished by using smart microelectronics able to give precise 3D information of the tumour position and surgical instruments during the surgical procedure. To this end, a new public private partnership is initiated between the research institutes, The Netherlands Cancer Institute and Tyndall National Institute and the private company Bcon-Medical.

The project meets the clinical need of more precise cancer surgery, which is inadequate in up to 20-25% of the patients. This leads to either tumor recurrence or long-lasting complications that affect patient’s well-being and participation in the society during the rest of their lives. Improved surgery for rectal and prostate cancer alone would already lead to cost savings in health care of 12 million euro per year in The Netherlands .

By developing smart sensor technology they will be able to guide the surgeon during the procedure by showing the tumour location and the relation of the surgical instrument in a 3D scene on monitors in the operating theatre. In this way radical tumor resection while sparing healthy tissue can be optimised. This will prevent tumor recurrence as well as long lasting complications from too extensive surgical procedures. 

At the end of the project they will deliver smart sensors that when used in combination with an electromagnetic navigation system can accurately locate a target in a laboratory setting. Surgery

Envisioned use in the future of the developed technology: Left: view of the surgeon where tumor can be hardly visualised by eye. Right: the position of the surgical instrument (green pointer on right image, depicted black on left image) in relation to the tumor tissue (light green).

In cancer surgery, tumour tissue is often not visible which leads to incomplete removal of the tumour and long-term complications. In this research they will research smart electromagnetic sensors equipped with microelectronics able to give precise 3D information of the tumour position and surgical instruments.
Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
1 - 6
Time period
48 months