If you or a loved one have been recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, you should know about an exciting new treatment that is far less invasive than traditional surgery—the NanoKnife. Here is a primer on how this amazing technology works.
What Is The NanoKnife Procedure?
Some tumors grow in areas which are impossible for a surgeon to safely remove, making them inoperable by conventional methods. For example, the pancreas is hidden deep in the human body. Previously, some were attempted to be destroyed with the extreme heat of concentrated microwaves, or at the opposite end of the spectrum, extreme cold from cryotherapy.
Unfortunately, both these procedures can cause damage to nearby healthy tissues, including destroying vessels and nerves. The NanoKnife procedure instead uses electrical currents to destroy tumors and cancerous cells.
How Is The NanoKnife Procedure Performed?
The patient will not be opened up with a scalpel as with traditional surgery, but the procedure will be performed under general anesthesia. The radiologist, guided by ultrasound, will insert thin needles through your skin and directly into the tumor or cancerous areas.
Electrical currents are then sent through the needles. This is called irreversible electroporation. It works by making tiny holes in the tumor, which then causes the cancerous cells to die. Because the electrical impulses are targeted to unhealthy cells, the surrounding healthy tissues are unaffected as they would be with other procedures.
As with other surgical procedures under general anesthesia, your body systems, such as respiration, will be monitored. You heart will be closely monitored to ensure it stays synchronized as the electrical currents being used can disrupt its rhythm.
What Is The Recovery Period For The NanoKnife Procedure?
The procedure itself can last several hours, depending on the size of the area to be treated. Some patients will go home later the same day while others will be kept for observation overnight. Most patients are started on prophylactic antibiotics before the procedure to prevent infection from developing, especially Staphylococcus aureus, which can be difficult to treat.
Your pain after the procedure will be minimal and easily treated with over-the-counter NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or other pain relievers. Most people are back to feeling better within two- or three-days post-procedure.
Who Qualifies For The NanoKnife Procedure?
Because the procedure uses electrical currents, people who have a pacemaker or otherwise abnormal heart conditions may not be a candidate for this procedure. This is relatively new technology, so as of now, most candidates have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The pancreas is very difficult to reach, and pancreatic cancer is problematic to treat successfully, making the NanoKnife cancer surgery procedure an exciting development.