The endoscope is a vital tool for the diagnosis and tracking of many medical ailments. As such, advances in endoscopy technology are likely to produce widely felt tremors throughout medicine.

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The Endoscope-i looks set to streamline ENT imaging.
Image credit: Endoscope-i

The new Endoscope-i, based on iPhone technology, takes images and videos during endoscopy procedures. These can then be shared quickly and easily with other medical professionals at the touch of a button.

Endoscopy is important in many medical fields, not least in ear, nose and throat (ENT); and it was within ENT that the Endoscope-i was first envisioned.

The pocket-sized Endoscope-i consists of an iPhone adaptor and an app. It is a simple, well-designed solution to a common problem.

Normally, when investigating a hole in an eardrum, for instance, medical practitioners examine the lesion with the endoscope and draw an image of the injury by hand for future reference.

Because of this technology gap, any changes to the injury between appointments can be quite difficult to gauge.

The Endoscope-i bridges the gap rather neatly. Images can be stored on the iPhone or sent to a computer via Wi-Fi. The benefits of a photographic image compared with a drawing need no further explanation.

Co-designer Ajit George spoke to Medical News Today about the frustration that led to this invention:

Our departments spend thousands of pounds on endoscopic camera equipment, but none of these images make it into the patient record. Having the image on an iOS device makes this process a lot simpler.”

The accompanying iPhone app allows the operator to alter the color, focus and exposure of the resulting images. Stills can be taken straight from the video – which can also be trimmed – all within the app.

The product was designed in 2012 by Ajit George, an ENT surgical registrar, Chris Coulson, a consultant otologist, and Mark Prince, a lecturer in engineering. The mixture of health professionals and engineering expertise has yielded a simple-to-use and robust piece of technology.

The following video shows how simple the Endoscope-i is to assemble:

MNT asked Coulson how the Endoscope-i came into being, and he said:

It was designed to resolve a problem that myself and Ajith George (both ENT surgeons) had in recording images of clinical findings and to be able to display these to patients. We really designed it as a solution for ourselves – which has become applicable to many ENT surgeons and others who use endoscopes.”

The first manufacturing run consisted of just 30 adapters. The inventors funded the process themselves and sold the first versions of the Endoscope-i to colleagues at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.

Because of its small size and ease of use, the Endoscope-i has the potential to revolutionize patient care in the ENT field. If a doctor suspects a burst eardrum, he will refer the patient to a hospital. If the doctor had access to an Endoscope-i, he could send a video of the damage to the hospital prior to the patient arriving.

It is in these types of scenarios that Coulson really believes the Endoscope-i will come into its own. Patients will be able to visit an audiologist, for instance, who can answer questions about symptoms within the app, administer a hearing test – also within the app – and then send the results and the video direct to the ENT surgeon. Coulson says:

“We think this may deliver a specialist opinion at a local level, without the need to wait, and it is likely to be cheaper than the current model of care. We are in the process of setting up a pilot study to assess this.”

Companies that sell hearing aids could also utilize this type of imaging device in high street outlets. The ability to share images and videos with such ease is clear. Despite the scope’s size, the imaging is more than adequate for use. The following video of an examination of a laryngocele showcases the tool:

The Endoscope-i is already being used widely in veterinary practices. It allows easy inspection of particularly large or particularly small animals, both in surgery and in the field. In fact, one of the scopes is currently being used to anesthetize parrots, while another is owned by the vet to the Sultan of Brunei.

The device does not stop at medical uses. George told MNT that the Endoscope-i has found a place among:

[…] vets, cycling mechanics, gun enthusiasts, star gazers…basically anyone who looks down a lens and wants to easily record what they are seeing, no matter where they are.”

In December 2015, Endoscope-i won themselves a slot in the Global Digital Health 100; an award that recognizes the most innovative companies in the digital health and mobile sectors. A cost effective device that streamlines a common medical necessity and makes diagnostics simpler and quicker was always bound to do well.

To date, more than 2,000 units have been sold in over 70 countries. The future certainly looks bright for the Endoscope-i.

In other medical technology news, MNT recently covered research into the use of an implantable artificial kidney based on microchips.