New Technique Sees Inside Blood Vessels in a Microsecond

Technology Review is reporting on a new technology to look inside the tiniest spaces such as blood vessels in a microsecond. Up until now endoscopic surgery has been limited as engineers tried to shrink telescopes to ever smaller diameters shifting from glass lenses to fiberoptic scopes to newer technologies. You can read my brief history and overview of microendoscopy here.

The new scope is based on optical coherence tomography but now uses new mathematical image analysis. Read the full article if you are interested in the heavy technical foundations of the system.

Suffice it to say, the system is a sort of “ultrahigh resolution optical ultrasound” and the new modification allows it to process the signal so fast that it could be used inside blood vessels without needing to interrupt blood flow and flush out the blood. The players in this development are two compnaies – LightLab and CardioSpectra of Austin, TX. The latter company was recently purchased by Volcano, one of the leading manufacturers of IVUS products for $25M.

Example of an OCT image of a fingertip (standard old OCT system)

Basic Explanation of How the Foundation Technology of OCT Works from wiki

“OCT is a technique for obtaining sub-surface images of materials at a resolution equivalent to a low-power microscope. It is effectively ‘optical ultrasound’, imaging reflections from within tissue to provide cross-sectional images. It is attracting a great deal of interest in the medical community, because of its potential to provide images at a far higher resolution (better than 10 µm) than is possible with other imaging modalities such as MRI or ultrasound.”

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