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'Firefly' dye guides kidney cancer surgery on Park Rapids man

John Puckropp, left, had a cancerous tumor removed from his kidney by Dr. Farhan Khan, a urologist and director of the robotic surgery program at Essentia Health in Fargo, using "Firefly" flourescent imaging technology. Special to The Forum

FARGO - John Puckropp felt a dull pain in his left side and immediately suspected a return bout of kidney stones.

After landing the passenger jet he piloted from the Twin Cities to Sheridan, Wyo., he decided to head to a hospital emergency room.

"It was no problem," Puckropp said Friday, recalling the episode that later revealed a serious problem. "It was just a little discomfort."

But the Park Rapids, Minn., man didn't want to risk a health emergency on a flight. The physician ordered an imaging scan, which found something suspicious on his kidney.

The ER doctor gave Puckropp a copy of the image and recommended that he see a urologist back home.

At Essentia Health in Fargo, Dr. Farhan Khan examined the scan in January 2013 and found a mass that looked like it could be cancer. He recommended removal through a freezing technique, but Puckropp's insurance company balked.

The mass grew slightly, as measured in six-month follow-up visits, and both Khan and Puckropp recently decided it was time for surgery to remove the possible tumor.

Luckily for Puckropp, a new imaging technique, used in tandem with minimally invasive robotic surgery, was available to help Khan pinpoint the tumor, distinguish it from healthy tissue and spot blood vessels.

Puckropp was one of the first surgical patients at Essentia to receive "Firefly" fluorescent imaging technology along with robotic surgery - an option Khan, a urologist and director of the robotic surgery program at Essentia, said helped significantly.

The golf ball-sized tumor was located near the center of Puckropp's kidney, near major blood vessels - critical to miss with the surgical blade.

The challenge in an operation of this kind, Khan said, is to ensure that the entire tumor is removed to eliminate the cancer.

"We were able to remove the entire tumor," he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

Patrick Springer

Patrick Springer first joined the reporting staff of The Forum in 1985. He can be reached by calling 701-241-5522. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to