WAUWATOSA (WITI)-- It's a way to map out organs inside the body before surgeons even raise a scalpel! A New Berlin man is the first in Wisconsin to benefit from the procedure.
Jeff Bolke has been on an uphill journey since being diagnosed with stage four colon cancer one year ago. The cancer had spread to his liver and lung.
"You still want to make plans. You don't want to just give up," said Jeff.
Jeff's fighting spirit brought him to Dr. Clark Gamblin at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. At first, Dr. Gamblin thought Jeff had too many tumors on his liver for surgery, but Jeff had a phenomenal response to chemotherapy. Gamblin made plans to remove half of Jeff's liver.
To prepare for Jeff's surgery, Dr. Gamblin used a new surgical device called Pathfinder. The device allowed Gamblin to create a 3D image of Jeff's liver using his CT scans. The surgeon could see exactly which section of Jeff's liver he wanted to remove, and how much.
FOX6 was invited inside the operating room to see how Pathfinder works. Pathfinder is like a GPS system for the liver.
"We can actually see where the tumor is, anticipate where we're going to cut, and know what structures we might encounter," said Dr. Gamblin.
In the operating room, Gamblin then used Pathfinder's handheld instrument with sensors to get an even better assessment of Jeff's liver. The image was projected onto a screen above the operating table.
"We can actually place the probe inside the liver and know how close we are to the critical structures that we'll either have to clip, avoid or maybe sew," said Dr. Gamblin.
Pathfinder also helps the surgeon calculate the volume of the liver. That's important because a person needs to keep 25 percent of his liver to survive.
Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin has been using Pathfinder for about four months. They've used it in about a dozen cases and Dr. Gamblin says it's been going smoothly.
Ten days after his operation, Jeff left the hospital. Four months later, the cancer in his liver has not returned. He continues receiving chemo for the remaining cancer in his lung.
So far, Pathfinder is only being used to help surgeons navigate the liver. However, Dr. Gamblin predicts it will eventually be used for other organs as well.