I was reading an interesting article in a somewhat recent issue of SCIENCE NEWS. It's a magazine I've been getting almost continuously since high school. I'll post the reference when I find it again.

Apparently someone was watching a cautery being used and wondered if the plume that is created was similar to the vaporized material used for mass spectrometry.

Mass spectrometry for those not familiar with it is an engineering tool used in material science. Materials, usually solids, are vaporized and then ionized [given a charge] and then analyzed as to various properties. The chart that's created is like a fingerprint. It's used to identity the material present.

Well, it turns out that the plume, or smoke, of the cautery does pretty much the same thing. The team then took to pathology tissues and identified a cancer fingerprint. Their resultant tool is pretty much a cautery knife with the plume evacutator attached to the cutting edge. The plume is then delievered, already vaporzied and ionized to a mass spectrometer. This lets the surgeon know whether they are in clean margin tissue or still in the cancer.

I'm sure this will eventually be available for other diagnoses. Imagine not having to wait for a frozen section to be read to know what one is dealing with. Cauterize a lesion and know if it's a verruca or amelanotic melanoma.

Dave Gottlieb, DPM personal opinions only

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