There are vibrant developments of optical imaging systems and contrast-enhancing methods that are geared to enhancing surgical vision and the outcome of surgical procedures. Such optical technologies designed for intraoperative use can offer high integration in the operating room compared to conventional radiological modalities adapted to intraoperative applications. Simple fluorescence epi-illumination imaging, in particular, appears attractive but may lead to inaccurate observations due to the complex nature of photon-tissue interaction. Of importance therefore are emerging methods that account for the background optical property variation in tissues and can offer accurate, quantitative imaging that eliminates the appearance of false negatives or positives. In parallel, other nonfluorescent optical imaging methods are summarized and overall progress in surgical optical imaging applications is outlined. Key future directions that have the potential to shift the paradigm of surgical health care are also discussed.
We present a novel fluorescence imaging system developed for real-time interventional imaging applications. The system implements a correction scheme that improves the accuracy of epi-illumination fluorescence images for light intensity variation in tissues. The implementation is based on the use of three cameras operating in parallel, utilizing a common lens, which allows for the concurrent collection of color, fluorescence, and light attenuation images at the excitation wavelength from the same field of view. The correction is based on a ratio approach of fluorescence over light attenuation images. Color images and video is used for surgical guidance and for registration with the corrected fluorescence images. We showcase the performance metrics of this system on phantoms and animals, and discuss the advantages over conventional epi-illumination systems developed for real-time applications and the limits of validity of corrected epi-illumination fluorescence imaging.