The SPY imaging system that Surrey Hospital and Outpatient Centre Foundation is fundraising for can greatly improve the success rates of breast reconstruction surgery following cancer.

SPY technology to help breast cancer patients

Surrey Hospital and Outpatient Centre Foundation fundraising for specialized SPY Imaging system.

by Steph Troughton

In Canada, spies are not just working for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Surgeons are using SPY imaging technology for breast cancer patients facing reconstructive surgery.

The relatively new system is showing such positive signs of success that the Surrey Hospital and Outpatient Centre Foundation is actively fundraising for it and has almost achieved its target.

“The imaging device costs $350,000 and we only need another $15,500 of the goal,” says foundation president and CEO Jane Adams. “I just know there is a local hero out there.”

She explains the technology provides instant images of the breast tissue during surgery.

“These (the images) can show potential healing problems, enabling the surgeon to take immediate steps to prevent post-surgery complications,” says Adams.

Every month, 650 patients, who are mostly women, visit the Breast Health Clinic at the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre in Surrey. The clinic dramatically speeds up the process for diagnosing suspicious masses which show up in routine mammographies.

“At the Jim Pattison Centre, everything is done on the same day,” said Adams.

Almost half from that group will end up having mastectomies which are often followed by reconstructive surgery.

“We do more reconstructive surgery than any other centre in the province,” Adams says.

Because the SPY imaging system allows surgeons to see actual blood flow between the patient’s abdominal flap and breast skin flaps, it improves the success rate of the reconstructive surgery, as mastectomy flap necrosis is far less likely to happen. Necrosis occurs when the skin left behind after surgery ends up dying because it does not receive adequate blood flow.

According to Adams, the SPY technology can reduce breast surgical reconstruction failure rates to less than two per cent, which is 11 per cent lower than the Fraser Health Authority average and 16 per cent lower than the provincial average.

The SPY imaging system involves surgeons injecting a safe fluorescent dye into the body at the start of reconstructive surgery. A laser within the SPY system follows the dye, sending the surgeon high-quality images of blood flow within vessels, tissue and organs. The images allow surgeons to ensure there is a healthy blood flow circulating to the breast mound so they can precisely reattach blood vessels as well as the breast skin flaps.

“It’s (the technology) so dramatic in what it can do for patients,” says Adams.

To make a donation to the project visit