Dr AvinashTank, is a super-specialist (MCh) Laparoscopic Gastro-intestinal Surgeon,

Liver Cancer Treatment: Real-Time Navigation Assists Surgeons.

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Liver Cancer Treatment: Real-Time Navigation Assists Surgeons.

Liver Cancer Treatment: Real-Time Navigation Assists Surgeons. A study from the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center sheds light on the benefits of real-time navigation technology in liver cancer treatment.

What is Ablation?

The research, led by Dr. David Gerber, explores the use of ablation, a minimally invasive technique that destroys tumors using focused energy. Similar to how a microwave heats food, ablation targets and eliminates cancerous cells.

Benefits of Ablation:

  • Suitable for specific tumors: Ablation is particularly effective for treating small to medium-sized tumors because it minimizes damage to surrounding healthy tissue compared to traditional surgical removal.
  • Promising alternative: For select patients, ablation offers a less invasive option with promising outcomes compared to surgical resection, making it a valuable tool in the fight against liver cancer, the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths globally.

Challenges of Ablation:

Despite its advantages, performing precise ablations comes with a learning curve for surgeons.

Accurately locating tumors and placing the ablation device require expertise to ensure complete tumor destruction while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.

Traditional Approach:

Traditionally, surgeons rely on two-dimensional ultrasound imaging to guide the procedure, which presents a limitation as the actual procedure occurs in three dimensions.

Dr. Gerber compares it to “playing a three-dimensional game when you are only used to playing on a game board.”

This limitation can be challenging for surgeons to visualize and navigate effectively during laparoscopic or minimally invasive procedures.

New Technology: Real-Time Navigation:

To overcome these limitations, new technology offers real-time navigation as a valuable supplement to static ultrasound imaging.

By employing an electromagnetic field generator and spatial sensors, the system creates an augmented reality image, providing surgeons with a more detailed and real-time visualization of the tumor’s location.

Study Findings:

The study, a retrospective analysis, compared the outcomes of over 750 ablation procedures performed by a single experienced surgeon between 2011 and 2021, with and without navigation assistance.

While no statistically significant differences were observed in survival rates or incomplete ablations (cases where the tumor wasn’t entirely destroyed) between the two groups, the navigation group included a higher proportion of patients with advanced diseases and tumors in more complex locations.


Dr. Gerber emphasizes the value of real-time navigation as a helpful tool for surgeons performing liver cancer ablations, particularly for those with less experience.

He acknowledges that for high-volume experienced surgeons, the benefits may not be as pronounced.

However, he highlights the significance of innovation in facilitating the adoption of new treatments like ablation by a wider range of surgeons.

He concludes by stating that “this technology allowed me as an experienced provider to rapidly teach a less experienced provider, and the navigation accelerates their time to proficiency.”

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