Let us take you on a trip to Belgium – more specifically, to the surgical department of Bordet Institute in Anderlecht. When we enter the large, light-filled entrance lobby, we’re immediately impressed by the integrated multidisciplinary center, devoted entirely to oncological research and treatment.
Oncology & surgery
Building on the experience and knowledge that result from its specific focus on oncology, Bordet Institute carries out research activities and specialized university training. And of course, when it comes to oncology, surgery is a key component.
Bordet’s current high-tech facility opened just one year ago. Its surgical teams have 8 operating rooms at their disposal, with different setups for many of the diverse types of oncological surgery that exist today.
We had the opportunity to talk with Professor Gabriel Liberale, Head of the Erasme-Bordet Interhospital Department of Digestive Surgery. He also works as professor of surgical oncology at ULB Medical School.
New environment, new opportunities
One of the most impactful updates in the new operating rooms, is that the surgical teams can display multiple types of information at the same time on the monitors, using touchscreens to easily manage the information.
“It’s especially useful during complex procedures, for example when a tumor has a very irregular shape,” says Professor Liberale. “Next to the open surgery or laparoscopic image, you can place CT or MRI scans, for example. That gives us a lot of flexibility and helps to make surgeries more efficient.”
Having multiple displays in the OR also makes it easier for students or guests to follow a surgery in the room, when they don’t have a direct view of the procedure.
From endoscope, to monitor, to the surgeon’s eyes
With minimally invasive procedures having become standard procedures, the surgical display has taken up a bigger role in the operating theater. “When you do minimally invasive surgery,” Professor Liberale tells us, “you’re completely dependent on what you see on the screen. So, a high resolution and realistic colors make it easier for us to recognize organs and smaller structures.”
3D endoscopic surgery as step-up to robotics
3D imaging in surgery is also not uncommon anymore. “I do all my cholecystectomy procedures using 3D monitors, because I want to get to know the technology. It takes some getting used to at first, but it’s very comfortable to have a better depth perspective while you’re operating. Additionally, the view you have is similar to what you’d see in robotic surgery, so it is an excellent way to train for that as well.”
Next steps towards the future of surgery
“At Bordet, we’re quite well equipped in terms of molecular imaging,” Professor Liberale explains. “We regularly use fluorescent probe (ICG) to check the vascularization of tissue, for example for colon surgeries.”
Molecular imaging is a very promising field for surgical oncology as a whole – not just in digestive surgery. When it concerns tumors, surgeons are very often limited to what they can see with the naked eye. “We cannot see micrometric structures, and microscopic visualization combined with augmented reality would be revolutionary to help us see beyond our human eye.”
Of course, AI also remains a hot topic in surgery. “Tumors can have unexpected shapes which you only discover during surgery. This sometimes happens during hepatectomies, for example. Artificial intelligence could help mapping the tumor’s irregularity, so we cut away as little healthy tissue as possible when we remove it.”
The conclusion seems to be as old as the surgical profession itself: it’s all about the ever-evolving quest for the best patient outcomes. And in a surgeon’s case, that comes down to having access to the right set of information and technologies that can make their work efficient and exact.
To close off, some facts & figures
In 2019, Bordet Institute's activities included...
- 1,242 healthcare professionals on board
- 160 hospital beds
- 11,097 cancer screening and prevention consultations
- 6,651 multidisciplinary cancer consultations
- 1,665 surgical procedures
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