No More Blind Biopsies

By Sadhna Verma, MD

New technology is making it possible to improve prostate cancer diagnosis and detection. We’re saying goodbye to blind biopsies, thanks to MRI-ultrasound fusion technology.

Traditionally, when a man shows an increased risk of prostate cancer based upon blood testing or physical exam findings, the physician takes 12 “random” samples of the prostate that are examined for prostate cancer by a pathologist. These ultrasound-guided prostate biopsy samples are taken from different areas of the prostate, but the ultrasound does not identify targets that are particularly suspicious for prostate cancer. The ultrasound cannot distinguish between normal and abnormal areas of the prostate. Thus “random” biopsy can miss the prostate cancer. Using the MRI-ultrasound fusion technology, doctors overlay the MRI images that “targets” suspicious for cancer onto the ultrasound imaging used at the time of biopsy. The fused images provide a “road map” that identifies areas within the prostate that are most likely to harbor cancer.

What is MRI-ultrasound fusion technology?

MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) use magnetic field and radio wave energy to form digital images of organs like the prostate gland.  Contrast agents are injected into the prostate during the MRI to improve the imaging detail available to the radiologist.  Careful examination of the MRI by a specially-trained radiologist identifies specific areas of the prostate that appear suspicious for cancer. These are the targeted areas that need to be biopsied.  Using newly developed technology, the MRI image and the ultrasound images generated during the actual biopsy process are “fused”. The biopsy needles are guided to collect samples from the areas that have been identified as being most suspicious for cancer cells. No other imaging technology can identify suspicious areas of the prostate.

What are the benefits of MRI-ultrasound fusion technology?

MRI-ultrasound fusion technology provides a more accurate means of diagnosing and monitoring prostate cancer.

The MRI-ultrasound fusion technology allows doctors to biopsy the precise areas of the prostate that appear abnormal.  The resulting pathology reports provide more accurate information about the presence or absence of cancer cells in these targeted sections.

The MRIs used for biopsies are instrumental in the ongoing management of each patient’s treatment plan. The majority of prostate cancers diagnosed is typically non-aggressive and can be monitored with “active surveillance”. MRIs provide a means of comparing the changes over time of each man’s prostate to determine if there is evidence of any progression of the cancer.  Changes in the targeted areas, or the appearance of new suspicious areas, signal a need for repeat biopsy or a more aggressive treatment plan.

To schedule an appointment with a UC Health urologist to discuss MRI-ultrasound fusion technology, please call 513-475-8787.

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