Tufts University's School of Engineering researchers have developed an endoscopic fiber optic shape tracker (EFOST) technology to reduce pain during colonoscopy.
Colonoscopy procedures are considered to be a comprehensive method of screening for colon cancer. During this procedure, an endoscope is inserted into the colon and maneuvered through the turns and bends in the colon. The tip of the endoscope may impinge against the wall of the colon and will not be able to move forward. When the endoscopist applies more pressure, a loop may form in the length of the endoscope. As a result, the endoscopist would not be able to see the loop as the traditional scope can offer only the frontal view.
The researchers at Tufts University have designed a system to visualize the navigation of the endoscope. They fixed digital electronics and fiber optic bend sensors on to the endoscope to display its shape and position on a monitor. Quantum dots, which are nano-sized crystals of semiconductor substance, were embedded into an optical fiber. A bending effect was created by stretching the optical fiber around a cylinder, and a laser light beam was then injected from into the internal core of the optical fiber from a single end.
When the optical fiber was bent, its core emitted light and stimulated the quantum dots, which regenerated light signals to a spectrometer. The intensity of the light emissions was proportional to the degree of bend.
The optic fiber was inserted into an endoscope and the engineers were able to generate a live image of the scope, enabling the endoscopist to know the shape of the endoscope and position of the tip inside the colon.