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Confocal Endomicroscopy

Johns Hopkins is one of the few centers in the country using confocal endomicroscopy, a powerful microscope that is used to diagnose you during an endoscopy.

Confocal Endomicroscopy: Changing the Way We Diagnose

Diagnosing esophageal cancers used to be a challenging, frustrating process. Patients often needed to undergo multiple biopsies in order to check various areas for cancer cells. Diagnosis meant a lot of time spent at the hospital and even more time waiting for results.

This all changed when Hopkins became the first medical center in the United States to use confocal endomicroscopy. Gastroenterologists can now immediately diagnose patients with esophageal cancer, thanks to an innovative, miniaturized microscope. The microscope is attached to the end of the endoscope, allowing physicians to see the internal structures in precise detail. This means that doctors can now more easily see the difference between normal and precancerous cells, leading to a faster, more accurate diagnosis.

Confocal Endomicroscopy: Why It’s Performed

Confocal endomicroscopy is used to screen patients with Barrett’s esophagus for esophageal cancer. The new technology allows physicians to identify changes and cancer cells early on, increasing the patient’s chances for a cure.

Confocal Endomicroscopy: What to Expect

The endomicroscope is so strong and offers such a detailed, high-resolution image that doctors are often able to diagnose you without needing to perform a biopsy. These “smart biopsies” precisely target the abnormal area, allowing your doctor to get the necessary information without an invasive biopsy.

A confocal endomicroscopy is performed the same way as an upper endoscopy:

  1. You receive an anesthetic to help prevent gagging. You may also receive pain medication and a sedative.
  2. You lie on your left side, referred to as the left lateral position.
  3. Your doctor inserts the endoscope through your mouth and pharynx, into the esophagus.
  4. The endoscope transmits an image of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum to a monitor that your physician is watching.
     
 

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