The newly developed radioisotope-free technique based on magnetic nanoparticle detection using a magnetic probe is a promising method for sentinel lymph node biopsy. In this study, a novel handheld magnetic probe with a permanent magnet and magnetic sensor is developed to detect the sentinel lymph nodes in breast cancer patients. An outstanding feature of the probe is the precise positioning of the sensor at the magnetic null point of the magnet, leading to highly sensitive measurements unaffected by the strong ambient magnetic fields of the magnet. Numerical and experimental results show that the longitudinal detection length is approximately 10 mm, for 140 μg of iron. Clinical tests were performed, for the first time, using magnetic and blue dye tracers-without radioisotopes-in breast cancer patients to demonstrate the performance of the probe. The nodes were identified through transcutaneous and ex-vivo measurements, and the iron accumulation in the nodes was quantitatively revealed. These results show that the handheld magnetic probe is useful in sentinel lymph node biopsy and that magnetic techniques are widely being accepted as future standard methods in medical institutions lacking nuclear medicine facilities.
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