The new “virtual biopsy” device relies on vibrational optical coherence tomography to analyse tissue. It delivers pulses of near-ultraviolet light, along with sound clicks, into the target tissue. The combination technology can identify how deep a lesion is seated and even whether it looks like it may be malignant.
The optical component provides information about the shape and size of the lesion, while the vibrational component can test its stiffness, a factor that can indicate that a tissue is cancerous. Because the device doesn’t need skin penetration, there’s no pain tangled. The only sensations that the patient experiences are the clicks from the sound waves it generates.
The virtual biopsy should be beneficial for any follow-up interventions, as it can indicate the shape and depth of a lesion and therefore provide guidance for a surgeon about to operate. Currently, physicians typically don’t know much about the tumor’s size and shape until they whip out the scalpel. So far, a proof-of-concept study on patients with carcinomas and other lesions has shown that the technology has great potential in clinical practice, but more optimisation will be necessary to improve its capabilities.