Despite significant improvements in preoperative workup and surgical planning, surgeons often rely on their eyes and hands during surgery. Although this can be sufficient in some patients, intraoperative guidance is highly desirable. Near-infrared fluorescence has been advocated as a potential technique to guide surgeons during surgery. A literature search was conducted to identify relevant articles for fluorescence-guided surgery. The literature search was performed using Medical Subject Headings on PubMed for articles in English until November 2022 and a narrative review undertaken. The use of invisible light, enabling real-time imaging, superior penetration depth, and the possibility to use targeted imaging agents, makes this optical imaging technique increasingly popular.
Four main indications are described in this review: tissue perfusion, lymph node assessment, anatomy of vital structures, and tumour tissue imaging. Furthermore, this review provides an overview of future opportunities in the field of fluorescence-guided surgery.
Conclusion: Fluorescence-guided surgery has proven to be a widely innovative technique applicable in many fields of surgery. The potential indications for its use are diverse and can be combined. The big challenge for the future will be in bringing experimental fluorophores and conjugates through trials and into clinical practice, as well as validation of computer visualization with large data sets. This will require collaborative surgical groups focusing on utility, efficacy, and outcomes for these techniques.