The world's smallest flexible microscope is diagnosing some big diseases and allowing physicians to treat patients on the spot. Dr. Michel Kahaleh, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of Virginia Health System, is the only physician in Virginia currently using probe-based confocal laser endomicroscopy (pCLE). pCLE is a technique that lets him view live tissue in real time at the cellular level. This allows the identification of cancer with pinpoint precision and permits precise removal of the diseased tissue.
"Until now, if we found suspicious tissue during one of these diagnostic procedures, we often had to randomly sample it and send it to the laboratory for analysis, which can take up to a week," says Kahaleh. "With pCLE, we can pinpoint the dangerous tissue during the initial diagnostic procedure and remove or treat it the same day."
Kahaleh and his team are using pCLE to more accurately differentiate cancerous and pre-cancerous tissue during colonoscopies, upper endoscopies, and the standard pancreatic and bile duct cancer detection procedure. They also use pCLE to catch and treat gastrointestinal cancers and other GI diseases, including those of the colon, bile duct, pancreas, and esophagus.
"This new imaging tool gives us the opportunity to immediately see changes up to the cell level and potentially gain insights of what may be wrong, thus optimizing patient treatment," Dr. Kahaleh explains.
Kahaleh also believes that this technique represents the future of medicine—a future in which doctors and researchers deliver ways to diagnose and treat diseases all at once. He thinks this will save time and reduce trauma for patients while improving efficiency.
Cellvizio is the technology platform that enables the pCLE technique. It is cleared by the Food & Drug Administration for use in the gastrointestinal tract and lungs, and over 5,000 Cellvizio procedures have been completed worldwide to date.
University of Virginia Health System