NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New technology is making breast reconstruction for cancer survivors much safer.
As CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reports, it's a high-tech, high-def, 3D video microscope.
3D video has been around for a while, and high-def keeps getting sharper so surgeons can see and work on really tiny structures, but they both have been expensive and cumbersome to use, especially in the operating room.
Sally Ritter had a couple bumpy weeks after having a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction, but she's getting much better.
"I actually just started having pain in my left breast," she said.
A mammogram followed by a biopsy revealed cancer in one breast and suspicious spots in the other.
"I said to him, 'Just take them both,'" she said.
Ritter chose to have breast reconstruction at the same time – a procedure called a DIEP flap, where doctors take skin and fat from her belly area to form new breasts. The crucial part of the surgery is connecting those transplanted tissues to a new blood supply on her chest.
"These are tiny vessels ranging anywhere from one to two millimeters," said Dr. Neil Tanna, of Northwell Health. "Those connections of blood vessels is really what allows the tissue to be vascularized or to live."
Normally, that means operating for hours while looking through large, cumbersome microscopes. But now, that big scope is being replaced by a little TV camera-looking device.
It's actually a very high-resolution microscope that projects images onto a super high-def screen. Add in specialize polarized glasses, and the image becomes 3D.
It's much better for surgeons and patients, Gomez reports.
"These are long operations. They can be six, eight, sometimes 10 hours. So having a surgeon that's not fatigued and that's able to do the most important part of the surgery - the microsugery - in a comfortable position I think is a real benefit," said Dr. Mark Smith, of Northwell Health.
Ritter's choices have worked out for her.
"All I think about is my family, being with my grandchildren," she said through tears.
As Gomez reports, we sometimes take these surgical techniques for granted, but doctors are sewing together blood vessels that are about the thickness of a pencil lead, and they have to maintain those tiny tubes open for blood to flow. These amazing scopes help make that possible.
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