New SpyGlass Technology Available Only at SMC

April 23, 2012


New Technology Helps Doctors at Springhill Medical Center   
Discern Between Benign and Malignant Conditions Involving the Pancreas and Biliary System

Because pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading killer of all cancers in the U.S., the SpyGlass Direct Visualization System, being utilized in Mobile only at Springhill Medical Center, is helping physicians yield much more accurate diagnoses.

Although fewer people contract pancreatic cancer than breast cancer, it kills as many people. While one in nine women will get breast cancer, many are saved – but in the case of pancreatic cancer, 80 percent of those who contract it will die within five years. When confirming pancreatic cancer, tissue samples have traditionally been obtained by brushing or biopsying strictures of the pancreas duct or bile duct via an endoscopic technique known as endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).SpyBite_Biopsy_Forceps.jpg

SpyGlass uses a fiber optic technology passed through a special thin tube (SpyScope) that shows a three-dimensional view of the pancreatic duct and bile duct. By passing the fiber optic probe into the ductal structures the tumor shows up visually. Biopsy forceps (SpyBite) can then be utilized through the SpyScope to get a visually directed biopsy to confirm suspicion.

Dr. Michael Sanders, gastroenterologist with Internal Medicine Center, said, “This technology utilizes a minimally invasive approach where invasive procedures were necessary before. It’s better for the patient and most often yields a more definitive diagnosis.”

A barrier to using the older technology to visually inspect the pancreatic duct and bile duct was that it required two people to operate it; one to use the smaller “baby” scope, and one to manipulate the larger “mother” scope. Also, the equipment was very fragile, more difficult to maneuver and often did not have tissue sampling capabilities. The new system requires only one professional to manage it, and has greatly improved steering capabilities and is less fragile. The operator can steer the tip to the precise location within the duct.

Overall, benefits of the newer SpyGlass system include the ability to make a more accurate diagnosis and better localization of the tumor.

In addition, the SpyGlass Direct Visualization System can be utilized to treat benign conditions of the bile duct such as difficult to remove bile duct stones.

Mr. Jeff St. Clair, President and CEO of Springhill Hospital, said, “This technology is a remarkable addition to Springhill.We are persistently trying to find new ways to better care for our patients, and we are proud to be the first in Mobile to use SpyGlass.”

One of the main uses of the SpyGlass is to ascertain whether blockage in the biliary or pancreatic ducts is malignant or benign – and with this new visually-directed technology, the sensitivity of accurate tissue sampling increases to 80-90 percent. As with many cancers, the earlier you diagnose it, the more likely the chances are for a cure.