Public Release:  3-D medical scanner: New handheld imaging device to aid doctors on the 'diagnostic front lines'

The Optical Society

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IMAGE: This is a schematic and picture of a handheld scanner doctors can use to monitor biofilms in the ear. It also shows a picture of a healthy middle ear and... view more

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2012--In the operating room, surgeons can see inside the human body in real time using advanced imaging techniques, but primary care physicians, the people who are on the front lines of diagnosing illnesses, haven't commonly had access to the same technology - until now. Engineers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) have created a new imaging tool for primary care physicians: a handheld scanner that would enable them to image all the sites they commonly examine, and more, such as bacterial colonies in the middle ear in 3-D, or monitor the thickness and health of patients' retinas. The device relies on optical coherence tomography (OCT), a visualization technology that is similar to ultrasound imaging, but uses light instead of sound to produce the images. The team will present their findings at the Optical Society's (OSA) Annual Meeting, Frontiers in Optics (FiO) 2012, taking place Oct. 14 - 18 in Rochester, N.Y.

To monitor chronic conditions such as ear infections, primary care physicians currently rely on instruments that are essentially magnifying glasses, says UIUC physician and biomedical engineer Stephen Boppart, who will present the team's findings at FiO. The new handheld imaging device would give doctors a way to quantitatively monitor these conditions, and possibly make more efficient and accurate referrals to specialists.

The scanners include three basic components: a near-infrared light source and OCT system, a video camera to relay real-time images of surface features and scan locations, and a microelectromechanical (MEMS)-based scanner to direct the light. Near-infrared wavelengths of light penetrate deeper into human tissues than other wavelengths more readily absorbed by the body. By measuring the time it takes the light to bounce back from tissue microstructure, computer algorithms build a picture of the structure of tissue under examination.

Diabetic patients in particular may benefit from the device. About 40 to 45 percent of diabetics develop leaky blood vessels in their retinas - a condition called retinopathy, which can lead to thickening of the retina, blurry vision, and eventually blindness. The handheld OCT device would allow doctors to monitor the health of the retina, potentially catching retinopathy in its early stages. In some cases, changes in the eye could help doctors diagnose diabetes, Boppart says.

Boppart and his team are hopeful that falling production costs combined with smaller, more compact designs will enable more physicians to take advantage of the scanners, and become a common point-of-care tool. Eventually, they would like to see the imagers at work in developing countries as well. He and an international team of collaborators recently received a $5 million National Institutes of Health Bioengineering Research Partnership grant to further refine the device.

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Presentation FTu2C.3. "Primary Care Imaging using Optical Coherence Tomography for Advanced Point-of-Care Diagnostics" takes place Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 11:15 a.m. EDT at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.

EDITOR'S NOTE: High-resolution images are available to members of the media upon request. Contact Angela Stark, astark@osa.org.

PRESS REGISTRATION: A press room for credentialed press and analysts will be located in the Rochester Riverside Convention Center, Sunday through Thursday, Oct. 14-18. Those interested in obtaining a press badge for FiO should contact OSA's Angela Stark at 202.416.1443 or astark@osa.org.

About the Meeting

Frontiers in Optics (FiO) 2012 is the Optical Society's (OSA) 96th Annual Meeting and is being held together with Laser Science XXVIII, the annual meeting of the American Physical Society (APS) Division of Laser Science (DLS). The two meetings unite the OSA and APS communities for five days of quality, cutting-edge presentations, fascinating invited speakers and a variety of special events spanning a broad range of topics in optics and photonics--the science of light--across the disciplines of physics, biology and chemistry. FiO 2012 will also offer a number of Short Courses designed to increase participants' knowledge of a specific subject in the optical sciences while offering the experience of insightful teachers. An exhibit floor featuring leading optics companies will further enhance the meeting. More information at www.FrontiersinOptics.org.

About OSA

Uniting more than 180,000 professionals from 175 countries, the Optical Society (OSA) brings together the global optics community through its programs and initiatives. Since 1916 OSA has worked to advance the common interests of the field, providing educational resources to the scientists, engineers and business leaders who work in the field by promoting the science of light and the advanced technologies made possible by optics and photonics. OSA publications, events, technical groups and programs foster optics knowledge and scientific collaboration among all those with an interest in optics and photonics. For more information, visit www.osa.org.

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