Fluorescence-Guided Surgery

When facing surgery, you want an experienced and caring team that uses the latest medical advances, such as fluorescence-guided technology.

UC San Diego Health offers the surgical precision technique through its Center for Fluorescence-Guided Surgery, led by Santiago Horgan, MD, center director, and Michael Bouvet, MD, co-director.

Rely on the lifesaving imaging tool that helps your doctor operate more safely and accurately, with fewer complications and better results.

What’s Fluorescence Imaging?

Fluorescence imaging lights up tumors, cancer cells, nerves and other anatomical features for easier identification and precise removal or preservation during surgeries.

Unlike older imaging technologies like X-rays, which are more like a static map, fluorescence imaging enables advanced imaging in real time during your surgery. The glowing molecules give your doctor accurate and detailed information and, therefore, more precision to operate.

Doctors use this leading-edge technology to treat patients with tumors and complex diseases of all types with GPS-like precision, identifying cancerous or malignant tissues throughout the body because they literally glow.

How Is Fluorescence-Guided Surgery Performed?

Just before fluorescence-guided surgery (FGS), contrast agents/dyes or targeted imaging probes are typically injected into the bloodstream of patients.

The cancer cells then light up under specialized cameras and light sources used by surgeons, allowing them to accurately visualize and label the tumor’s location, anatomy, margins or other critical structures in real time for more precise surgery and resection.

This enhanced visualization tool is used in open, laparoscopic and robot-assisted surgeries to identify critical structures and blood flow in tissues to reduce damage to normal structures, such as nerves, blood vessels, ureters and bile ducts.

Experienced Specialists

As leaders in surgical innovation, our surgeons at the Center for Fluorescence-Guided Surgery use fluorescence imaging to optimize a variety of surgeries. This ranges from common procedures such as gallbladder removal and weight loss surgery to the most complex neurosurgical procedures and cancer surgeries.

Advantages of Fluorescence-Guided Surgery

With better detection and identification of diseased tissue, FGS:

  • Improves surgical efficacy, for example, by letting doctors remove an entire tumor or affected lymph node while sparing healthy tissue
  • Enhances surgical quality by reducing damage to nearby tissues, blood vessels and organs during operations
  • Allows surgeons to identify injured nerves that need repair during reconstructive surgery

Is safe without any ionizing radiation emitted by X-rays and other technologies

World-Renowned Research and Innovation

Our center builds upon the work and legacy of Nobel Laureate Roger Tsien, PhD, at UC San Diego. He helped revolutionize the field of surgery by developing a series of glowing peptides or multicolored fluorescent proteins that would one day light up cancer cells for easier identification and removal during an operation.

The evolution of Dr. Tsien's work in the lab to our operating rooms at UC San Diego Health combines translational and personalized medicine at its best.

We collaborate in a multidisciplinary atmosphere and provide the highest level of expertise offered by San Diego's only academic health system.