CONTEXT: The inability to accurately localize the parathyroid glands during parathyroidectomy and thyroidectomy procedures can prevent patients from achieving postoperative normocalcemia. There is a critical need for an improved intraoperative method for real-time parathyroid identification. OBJECTIVE: The objective of the study was to test the accuracy of a real-time, label-free technique that uses near-infrared (NIR) autofluorescence imaging to localize the parathyroid. SETTING: The study was conducted at the Vanderbilt University endocrine surgery center. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Patients undergoing parathyroidectomy and/or thyroidectomy were included in this study. To validate the intrinsic fluorescence signal in parathyroid, point measurements from 110 patients were collected using NIR fluorescence spectroscopy. Fluorescence imaging was performed on 6 patients. Imaging contrast is based on a previously unreported intrinsic NIR fluorophore in the parathyroid gland. The accuracy of fluorescence imaging was analyzed in comparison with visual assessment and histological findings. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: The detection rate of parathyroid glands was measured. RESULTS: The parathyroid glands in 100% of patients measured with fluorescence imaging were successfully detected in real time. Fluorescence images consistently showed 2.4 to 8.5 times higher emission intensity from the parathyroid than surrounding tissue. Histological validation confirmed that the high intrinsic fluorescence signal in the parathyroid gland can be used to localize the parathyroid gland regardless of disease state. CONCLUSION: NIR fluorescence imaging represents a highly sensitive, real-time, label-free tool for parathyroid localization during surgery. The elegance and effectiveness of NIR autofluorescence imaging of the parathyroid gland makes it highly attractive for clinical application in endocrine surgery.
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