Past studies have demonstrated that combined fluorescence and diffuse reflectance spectroscopy can successfully discriminate between normal, tumor core, and tumor margin tissues in the brain. To achieve efficient, real-time surgical resection guidance with optical biopsy, probe-based spectroscopy must be extended to spectral imaging to spatially demarcate the tumor margins. We describe the design and characterization of a combined fluorescence and diffuse reflectance imaging system that uses liquid-crystal tunable filter technology. Experiments were conducted to quantitatively determine the linearity, field of view, spatial and spectral resolution, and wavelength sensitivity of the imaging system. Spectral images were acquired from tissue phantoms, mouse brain in vitro, and human cortex in vivo for functional testing of the system. The spectral imaging system produces measured intensities that are linear with sample emission intensity and integration time and possesses a 1 in. (2.54 cm) field of view for a 7 in. (18 cm) object distance. The spectral resolution is linear with wavelength, and the spatial resolution is pixel-limited. The sensitivity spectra for the imaging system provide a guide for the distribution of total image integration time between wavelengths. Functional tests in vitro demonstrate the capability to spectrally discriminate between brain tissues based on exogenous fluorescence contrast or endogenous tissue composition. In vivo imaging captures adequate fluorescence and diffuse reflectance intensities within a clinically viable 2 min imaging time frame and demonstrates the importance of hemostasis to acquired signal strengths and imaging speed.
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