Heartburn Treatment: What is Confocal Laser Endomicroscopy?

Confocal laser endomicroscopy (CLE) is a medical procedure which uses a specially adapted endoscope that allows doctors to look at images that are magnified by a 1,000 times. These extreme close up images enable doctors to make “optical biopsies” and provide a better diagnosis of all gastrointestinal disorders like heartburn, GERD or Barrett’s Esophagus.

This procedure uses a tiny microscope at the end of an endoscope to provide the magnification, whilst a very low power laser light provides the illumination. The laser is focused at a specific depth so only reflected light from this depth is able to provide images and this produces better quality imaging with more spacial resolution.

The images are immediately displayed on a computer screen often allowing the doctor to make an accurate diagnosis then and there and start any treatment straight away. If biopsies are needed the high quality images makes these much more targeted thereby reducing the number needed. Before this procedure was introduced a few years ago, it took anything up to a week to make an accurate diagnosis because the doctor would have to take photos and then do a mucosal biopsy.

For a condition such as Barrett’s Esophagus the procedure is able to identify changes at a cellular level and this can help provide an earlier diagnosis and commencement of treatment. It also allows a more accurate identification of areas needing removal and can also be used after removal to confirm that sufficient tissue has been removed.

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