Novel imaging techniques for intraoperative margin assessment in surgical oncology: A systematic review

Jan Heidkamp*, Mirre Scholte, Camiel Rosman, Srirang Manohar, Jurgen J. Fütterer, Maroeska M. Rovers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
90 Downloads (Pure)


Inadequate margins continue to occur frequently in patients who undergo surgical resection of a tumor, suggesting that current intraoperative methods are not sufficiently reliable in determining the margin status. This clinical demand has inspired the development of many novel imaging techniques that could help surgeons with intraoperative margin assessment. This systematic review provides an overview of novel imaging techniques for intraoperative margin assessment in surgical oncology, and reports on their technical properties, feasibility in clinical practice and diagnostic accuracy. PubMed, Embase, Web of Science and the Cochrane library were systematically searched (2013-2018) for studies reporting on imaging techniques for intraoperative margin assessment. Patient and study characteristics, technical properties, feasibility characteristics and diagnostic accuracy were extracted. This systematic review identified 134 studies that investigated and developed 16 groups of techniques for intraoperative margin assessment: fluorescence, advanced microscopy, ultrasound, specimen radiography, optical coherence tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, elastic scattering spectroscopy, bio-impedance, X-ray computed tomography, mass spectrometry, Raman spectroscopy, nuclear medicine imaging, terahertz imaging, photoacoustic imaging, hyperspectral imaging and pH measurement. Most studies were in early developmental stages (IDEAL 1 or 2a, n = 98); high-quality stage 2b and 3 studies were rare. None of the techniques was found to be clearly superior in demonstrating high feasibility as well as high diagnostic accuracy. In conclusion, the field of imaging techniques for intraoperative margin assessment is highly evolving. This review provides a unique overview of the opportunities and limitations of the currently available imaging techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-645
Number of pages11
JournalInternational journal of cancer
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • Cancer
  • Medical imaging
  • Surgical margins
  • Surgical oncology
  • Systematic review


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