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Proposed Endoscope System
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The research program (funded by The Whitaker Foundation) will investigate the engineering requirements involved in a novel technique for attaining high resolution and wide field of view endoscopic images from a single optical fiber (see figure). Instead of the current method of recording the endoscopic image by using a spatial array of pixels, each pixel of the image will be recorded sequentially in time. By detecting the scattered light from a single raster-scanned beam of white light, the physical bulkiness of having a detector array is eliminated. Thus, this novel design will produce a significantly smaller and flexible endoscope that will advance the burgeoning field of minimally invasive medical techniques. The result of this research will allow doctors to see within body cavities never before accessible (such as sinus cavities), and be able to leave this less-invasive scope within the body for long-term dynamic monitoring of chronic diseases (such as chronic sinusitis).

The fundamental opto-mechanical variables will be modeled, analyzed, and tested for optimal design. The engineering challenges are understanding and predicting the scanning mechanics, micro-optical design, stereoscopic imaging & display, mechanical & ergonomic design, and advanced materials research. The engineering research will be coordinated in a systems approach that includes two medical professionals at early stages of the design and during in vitro testing. One graduate student interested in biomedical engineering will supported for the duration of this three-year project. The short-term results of this research will be engineering knowledge and proof-of-concept prototypes.

The clinical potential is expansive for the proposed research that improves upon the flexible endoscope, one of the most important tools used in minimally invasive medicine. Unlike commercial flexible endoscopes, the proposed endoscope design is not restricted to using large arrays for image detection. The future clinical result is the development ultrathin endoscopes (approximately 1 mm diameter) having high resolution, wide field-of-view, and very low flexural rigidity. Therefore, having a more effective endoscopic tool that is even less invasive should expand the capabilities of minimally invasive medical techniques, while decreasing error rates, reducing tissue trauma, and lowering health care costs.