Endoscopic fiber catheter offers in vivo imaging

Recently a new optical fiber-based endoscopic imaging system has been designed. The fiber optic technology combines “narrowband red-green-blue reflectance with optical coherence tomography and autofluorescence imaging”. The operating principle of such a fiber optic system is based on a submillimeter diameter rotary-pullback double-clad endoscopic fiber catheter that allows performing sample illumination and detection.

Compared to conventional RGB reflectance imaging or AFI, endoscopic fiber catheter provides better contrast, however, worse color consistency. Herewith, the resolution of the fiber optic system is considered to be 25  μm in both the rotary and the pullback directions. Therefore, fiber optic technology enables one to perform optical coherence tomography simultaneously with either narrowband red-green-blue reflectance imaging or autofluorescence imaging.

It should be noted that the technique of white light optical fiber endoscopy is regarded as one of the primary diagnostic assessment tools for luminal organs, for example, the gastrointestinal tract and the respiratory tract. The thing is that conventional endoscopic fiber catheter applies incoherent fiber optic bundles for diffuse white light illumination and coherent fiber optic bundles to transmit detection light from the distal end to the proximal end of the endoscope.

Nevertheless, today the diameter of numerous available optical fiber endoscopes goes beyond 4.9 mm resulting in complicated or even impossible navigation through small-diameter luminal organs (the endocervical canal, fallopian tubes, and the peripheral lung). That is why a tiny submillimeter endoscopic fiber catheter is still required. For example, big CFB endoscopes have such a disadvantage as the creation of honeycomb patterns in their images because of the space between optical fiber cores, consequently, additional corrections are required.

Herewith, it is possible to overcome the challenge by using smaller endoscopic fiber catheters that include fewer imaging optical fibers. Additionally, the reduction of the endoscope diameter promotes the reduction of resolvable pixels number, thus, decreasing the spatial resolution or the field of view. It is possible to use the features of double-clad optical fibers using a single optical fiber in an endoscope, therefore, reducing the size and imaging acquisition challenges.

Finally, the developed endoscopic fiber catheter has been tested and demonstrated the color visualization of epithelial surfaces with the resolving power of magnification endoscopy. Moreover, such a fiber optic system can be used in the more distal and smaller luminal diameter internal organ sites.

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