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Center for Fluorescence-Guided Surgery

UC San Diego Health Surgeons​Fluorescence-guided technology is a lifesaving imaging tool that lights up tumors and cancer cells as well as nerves and other anatomical features for easier identification and precise removal or preservation during surgeries. This approach is changing how surgery can be performed more safely and accurately for patients.

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

What Is Fluorescence Imaging?

Fluorescence imaging lets doctors 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.

UC San Diego Health uses this form of imaging to optimize a variety of surgeries from common procedures such as gallbladder removal and weight loss surgery to the most complex neurosurgical procedures.

Just before fluorescence-guided surgery (FGS), contrast agents or targeted imaging probes are typically injected into the blood stream 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 can be used in open, laparoscopic and robotic surgeries to identify critical or important structures and blood flow in tissues. And it help reduce damage to normal structures, such as nerves, blood vessels, ureters and bile ducts.

What Is Our Connection to Fluorescence Imaging?

Our new 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 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 is a combination of 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.