Confocal endomicroscopy: instrumentation and medical applications

Ann Biomed Eng. 2012 Feb;40(2):378-97. doi: 10.1007/s10439-011-0426-y. Epub 2011 Oct 13.


Advances in fiber optic technology and miniaturized optics and mechanics have propelled confocal endomicroscopy into the clinical realm. This high resolution, non-invasive imaging technology provides the ability to microscopically evaluate cellular and sub-cellular features in tissue in vivo by optical sectioning. Because many cancers originate in epithelial tissues accessible by endoscopes, confocal endomicroscopy has been explored to detect regions of possible neoplasia at an earlier stage by imaging morphological features in vivo that are significant in histopathologic evaluation. This technique allows real-time assessment of tissue which may improve diagnostic yield by guiding biopsy. Research and development continues to reduce the overall size of the imaging probe, increase the image acquisition speed, and improve resolution and field of view of confocal endomicroscopes. Technical advances will continue to enable application to less accessible organs and more complex systems in the body. Lateral and axial resolutions down to 0.5 and 3 μm, respectively, field of view as large as 800 × 450 μm, and objective lens and total probe outer diameters down to 0.35 and 1.25 mm, respectively, have been achieved. We provide a review of the historical developments of confocal imaging in vivo, the evolution of endomicroscope instrumentation, and the medical applications of confocal endomicroscopy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Endoscopes*
  • Endoscopy / instrumentation
  • Endoscopy / methods
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Confocal / instrumentation*
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods