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New Technology Speeds GI Disease Diagnosis
Date:5/18/2008

Tiny microscope at end of endoscope allows immediate imagery of gastrointestinal tract

SUNDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- A real-time microscopic technique called confocal laser endomicroscopy (CLE) could lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders such as cancer, reflux disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.

That's the conclusion of several studies to be presented May 18 at the Digestive Disease Week conference in San Diego.

CLE, which uses a tiny microscope at the end of an endoscope, effectively and immediately identifies suspicious patterns and precancerous cells and may eliminate the need for biopsies to diagnose gastrointestinal (GI) conditions, according to experts.

"Up until now, determining the condition of a patient required days or even weeks while patients waited for diagnosis; further, it has been difficult to detect subtle precancerous lesions or even areas within a large lesion, often leading to time-consuming and labor-intensive procedures as well as uncertainty about missing something important," Dr. Pankaj J. Pasricha, professor of medicine, gastroenterology and hepatology at Stanford University School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"New techniques such as those discussed (at the conference) will change the way we diagnose patients, allowing us to treat them more accurately, quickly and appropriately," Pasricha said.

In one study, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers found that CLE provided an accuracy rate of 91 percent in the upper GI tract and 93 percent in the lower GI tract.

"This is a very promising technique for real-time microscopic imaging of the gastrointestinal tract," study author Dr. Kerry B. Dunbar, a fellow in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology, said in a prepared statement. "Previously, it took a few days or a week to find out a diagnosis, because we'd have to take photos and then
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