FEBRUARY 2--New software programs and equipment designed to help medical practitioners view and control their procedures better are aiding the rapid expansion of minimally invasive surgery in France. These tools, particularly combined with biophotonic medical imaging or nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging, are contributing decisively to the evolution of this form of surgery. Developments in imaging are making it possible to anticipate the requirements of surgical operations and to ensure their safety and reliability.
Federic Mouret, creator and manager of the French company Protomed, whose solutions have been aimed at classic surgery, has remarked that "we are resolutely turning our activity toward minimally invasive surgery because new tools need to be developed so that this form of treatment can expand in all fields." Other French companies such as Image Guided Therapy and Mauna Kea Technologies are developing new vision systems and software for monitoring surgical procedures.
Image Guided Therapy will make its Thermoguide program available in 2004. A servo-system, with patent pending, will enhance the program and guide an innovative device for treatment by focused ultrasound, without any body contact, perfected by the company. After the clinical trials planned for this year, it will be able to be used to treat cardiac arrhythmia.
"Seeing better" is also a credo for Mauna Kea Technologies in Paris. This company is developing tools from a synergy between microscopy, endoscopy and medical imaging, in the form of easily transportable platforms. The instruments obtained are making it possible to achieve micron resolutions never before attained by in vivo medical imaging. "Being able to see at the level of the cell is essential for diagnosing a cancerous lesion and is also potentially the only means at the present time of seeing precancerous lesions," said Benjamin Abrat, the cofounder of the company. Furthermore, with the high visual resolution, the technique provides the possibility of imaging the tissue under the surface. This may be termed "optical biopsy," undertaken at the site where most cancerous phenomena have their beginnings and are otherwise impossible to detect using conventional visual investigation techniques.