The World of Medical Fiber Optics
Fiber optics may be one of the most versatile forms of technology currently in existence. From computers to telephones, aviation to military defense, fiber optics can be utilized in a seemingly limitless number of applications. However, one field of fiber optic application that may be overlooked is the medical field. As it turns out, fiber optics are so versatile that they can also be uniquely suited to aid in a variety of medical practices.
Fiber Optics in Diagnostic Tools
Fiber optics provide a unique solution for various challenges in the medical field, as they are not only non-toxic to humans, but perhaps equally importantly, they are immune to electromagnetic interference (EMI). This means that they are ideal for use during diagnostic testing. Certain scans such as MRI, CT or PET scans are ideal environments for fiber optic use as they can be trusted to not malfunction in the presence of EMI. Their small size and flexibility also allow them to be safely used for internal use, such as in catheters.
One type of test that has become part of common conversation over the last two years is the PCR test or polymerase chain reaction. This diagnostic testing method requires using a special machine that creates copies of DNA sections, sometimes referred to as “molecular photocopying,” to detect abnormal cells. A type of PCR testing called Quantitative PCR, or qPCR, relies heavily on fluorescence-detecting equipment, and optical fibers are frequently used in the construction of these machines due to their high stability, low reflection loss and low cost of their implementation, which can reduce the overall cost of the equipment.
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is another type of testing that uses fiber optics. This test captures 3D images inside of the body and is most often used for testing done on the eyes and scans of the retina. It functions similarly to an ultrasound, however, it uses light rather than sound which is why fiber optics are perfectly suited for it. Optical fibers can even be used in biomedical sensors. A biomedical sensor can be used in a variety of ways, such as measuring heart rate, muscle displacement, as well as the temperature of the body or the blood. Temperature sensors with optical fibers are most often used during surgery as an alternative to traditional thermometers.
Optical Fiber and Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS)
Surgery has historically been an intense and deeply invasive undertaking, and while in many instances that is still the case, there is a growing use of MIS, or minimally invasive surgery, as a less invasive treatment for issues ranging from cancer to kidney stones and more.
An endoscope is a tool that is frequently used to aid in MIS procedures. Essentially, an endoscope is a long, thin, flexible tube with a light source and a small camera on the end that is used to view a designated area inside of the body. Optical fibers are frequently used in the construction of endoscopes due to their light weight, flexibility and ability to transmit light. An endoscope contains two bundles of fibers. One bundle acts as a pathway for a light source to project light onto the area being viewed, while the other bundle is attached to the small lens that is able to reflect the light that is being projected. This lens can capture images or project video via a connection to a screen or monitor so that the surgeon has a clear view of the area in question.
At Timbercon we are proud of our ability to think outside the box to create the optimal solution to resolve challenges using our in-house technology. Whether it is fiber bundles for illumination or splicing components to create probes, we excel in our capacity to work alongside you to design the perfect solution for your desired application, medical or otherwise. To learn more about our capabilities and how they can work for you, contact us today.