Second near-infrared (NIR-II) fluorescence imaging is the most advanced imaging fidelity method with extraordinary penetration depth, signal-to-background ratio, biocompatibility, and targeting ability. It is currently booming in the medical realm to diagnose tumors and is being widely applied for fluorescence-imaging-guided tumor surgery.

To efficiently execute this modern imaging modality, scientists have designed various probes capable of showing fluorescence in the NIR-II window. Here, we update the state-of-the-art NIR-II fluorescent probes in the most recent literature, including indocyanine green, NIR-II emissive cyanine dyes, BODIPY probes, aggregation-induced emission fluorophores, conjugated polymers, donor-acceptor-donor dyes, carbon nanotubes, and quantum dots for imaging-guided tumor surgery. Furthermore, we point out that the new materials with fluorescence in NIR-III and higher wavelength range to further optimize the imaging results in the medical realm are a new challenge for the scientific world.

In general, we hope this review will serve as a handbook for researchers and students who have an interest in developing and applying fluorescent probes for NIR-II fluorescence-imaging-guided surgery and that it will expedite the clinical translation of the probes from bench to bedside.

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