Nerve-sparing surgery is essential to avoid functional deficits of the limbs and organs. Raman scattering, a label-free, minimally invasive, and accurate modality, is one of the best candidate technologies to detect nerves for nerve-sparing surgery. However, Raman scattering imaging is too time-consuming to be employed in surgery. Here we present a rapid and accurate nerve visualization method using a multipoint Raman imaging technique that has enabled simultaneous spectra measurement from different locations (n=32) of a sample. Five sec is sufficient for measuring n=32 spectra with good S/N from a given tissue. Principal component regression discriminant analysis discriminated spectra obtained from peripheral nerves (n=863 from n=161 myelinated nerves) and connective tissue (n=828 from n=121 tendons) with sensitivity and specificity of 88.3% and 94.8%, respectively. To compensate the spatial information of a multipoint-Raman-derived tissue discrimination image that is too sparse to visualize nerve arrangement, we used morphological information obtained from a bright-field image. When merged with the sparse tissue discrimination image, a morphological image of a sample shows what portion of Raman measurement points in arbitrary structure is determined as nerve. Setting a nerve detection criterion on the portion of “nerve” points in the structure as 40% or more, myelinated nerves (n=161) and tendons (n=121) were discriminated with sensitivity and specificity of 97.5%. The presented technique utilizing a sparse multipoint Raman image and a bright-field image has enabled rapid, safe, and accurate detection of peripheral nerves.
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