In neurosurgery, the use of electronic scalpels has now become a norm: burning tissue means dispersing its molecules, literally sending them up in smoke.
The method developed by researchers at the University of Tampere in Finland includes a device capable of “sniffing” the surgical smoke produced by cuts in real time, thus analyzing the composition of the tissues on which it is operating.
"In current clinical practice the process is much more complex: a very small sample of the tumor is analyzed after having it taken, frozen and sent to a pathologist during the operation," says the researcher Ilkka Haapala.
Today the pathologist produces an analysis after observation under the microscope and telephones the operating room to provide the response. It already looks like something a hundred years ago.
"Our new method gives the possibility to analyze the tissues in real time and on many points of the tumor, with the advantage of being able to adopt a device that connects with the instrumentation already present," explains Haapala.
How the "electronic nose" works
The fumes produced by the electronic scalpel pass through an electric field produced by the device: each type of smoke (and therefore of fabric) has a precise distribution of ions in an electric field. In other words, it has its own olfactory imprint.
A machine learning system is connected to the "nose" that helps him refine the analyzes as he collects data: the accuracy of the system in classifying benign and malignant tumors was already 83% after the first uses, and in a short time (after about 700 analyzes carried out) it is now 94%.