New State-of-the-Art Equipment

The transformation of surgical care at Royal University Hospital took a major leap forward in 2022-23, contributing to one of the first brain cancer surgeries of its kind at RUH, thanks to the generosity of donors like you.

“Support from RUH Foundation and its donors through the purchasing of new state-of-the-art equipment has given our surgical teams the tools needed to continue providing the most innovative, lifesaving and life-enhancing treatments here at home in Saskatchewan,” says RUH neurosurgeon Dr. Luke Hnenny.

RUH surgical teams perform many of the most complex and specialized surgeries in the province, including more than 1,000 brain and spine procedures each year on patients from across Saskatchewan.

Dr. Hnenny, with specialized training in microsurgical management of complex brain tumours and lesions, calls the new equipment purchases a game changer in the delivery of surgical care in the province.

“For example, the two new Kinevo® surgical microscopes enable us to see things and do things we couldn’t have seen or done before using the existing microscopes,” says Dr. Hnenny, who used these new microscopes 100 times during that first year.

Malignant tissue under white light

Blue filter and fluorescing tissue

The new digital microscopes provide unprecedented illumination, 3-D and 360-degree visualization, and innovative tracking of optical imaging agents viewed in real-time on a 4K high-resolution monitor that enhances clinical decision-making and contributes to improved patient outcomes.

The new microscopes’ cutting-edge features include the ability to track 5-ALA, an innovative optical imaging fluorescence agent recently approved by Health Canada, that the patient drinks before surgery.

Dr. Hnenny was the first at RUH to use both the new microscope and the fluorescence imaging agent in treating a patient with a form of brain cancer. Glioblastoma tumours are one of the most difficult cancers to treat in the human body. They infiltrate normal brain tissue and as a result, surgical removal of all tumour cells is not possible.

RUH’s traditional surgical microscopes use standard “white” light, and it is challenging to judge the point in surgery where most of the tumour has been removed.

“Using this fluorescence-guided surgery approach, we can have a better idea of how far out the tumour cells go, and consequently we can remove significantly more of the tumour volume than with standard white light,” explains Dr. Hnenny. “This improves patient outcomes.”

A few hours before surgery, the patient is given the fluorescent 5-ALA dye to swallow. Once the dye is absorbed by the tumour cells, the surgeon uses the Kinevo’s blue light capability that lights up tumour cells. This technique enables the surgeon to see the tumour cells in a different wavelength that would otherwise not be visible to the human eye.

The fluorescence agent makes the cancerous cells glow a pinkish-red colour. A gradient of different colours shows the extent of tumour spread that fades in intensity ultimately indicating non-cancerous tissue.

“It is remarkable to see the vibrant pink colour of fluorescing tumour cells contrasted with the blue appearance of normal brain tissue around the tumour,” says Dr. Hnenny. “It gives you a much clearer picture of where the tumour begins and ends, allowing for much more precision in removal of the cancer.” RUH Foundation’s contribution to the transformation of surgical care is something we couldn’t do without your support. Thanks to you, more lives are being saved today and for years to come at RUH.

Read more stories about the impact of your donations in our 2022–2023 Annual Gratitude Report.