Surgical smart knife(iKnife) can detect endometrial cancer cells in seconds|Here’s how it works

Last Updated on January 11, 2023 by Dr Bucho

Image: Cancer Research Uk

Scientists at Imperial College London in the UK have demonstrated that the iKnife, a cutting-edge surgical instrument, can “smell tumours” and quickly identify womb cancer. The discovery may allow thousands more women to receive a cancer diagnosis sooner. The iKnife is a cleverly designed electric toothbrush-sized device that combines electrosurgery and mass spectrometry to operate.

The iKnife vaporises tissues using minute electrical pulses, and a spectrometer array examines the resulting smoke to look for potentially malignant cells. The researchers’ findings were reported in the journal of Cancers. The iKnife reliably detected endometrial cancer in seconds, with a diagnostic accuracy of 89%, decreasing the current delays for women while awaiting a histological diagnosis. First reported by The Guardian

How does iKnife work?

“Electrosurgical knives quickly heat tissue with an electrical current to cut through it with the least amount of blood loss. They do this by vaporising the tissue, which produces smoke that is typically removed by extraction devices. The spectrometer array analyzes the ensuing smoke to detect potentially cancerous cells. When the biopsy tissue is vaporized after being extracted from the womb, iKnife analyses the smoke that is released from the tissue.

iKnife capability

For postmenopausal women, abnormal or irregular bleeding frequently happens for sometimes benign reasons, such as noncancerous polyps or as a result of hormone replacement medication. However, specialists advise people to always arrange medical tests if bleeding starts because postmenopausal haemorrhage is one of the main early markers of endometrial cancer. Imperial College London’s research team believes that the iKnife’s prospective new capability to very instantaneously assess problematic tissue could significantly reduce the stress associated with these historically prolonged, often weeks-long wait periods.


Sadaf Ghaem-Maghami, the research lead, told The Guardian that the iKnife could soon “immediately reassure” someone of an extremely low likelihood of cancer while also hastening additional testing and treatment for those with potentially positive biopsies. The iKnife has a positive predictive value of 94 percent.

In their initial study, the researchers used 150 people’s biopsy tissue samples to compare the outcomes of the iKnife with those of conventional diagnostic techniques. The newest functionality of the iKnife could become yet another widely used feature for the smart gadget following a future significant clinical trial.

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