Medical cameras, such as endoscopes and fiberscope cameras, enable clinicians to see directly into the body and view tissue and vessels in-detail directly. Medical-camera images (including video) enhance precision for definitive diagnosis and safely delivering treatments to assure optimal clinical results — often with faster recovery, such as with minimally invasive surgery.
To generate images, cameras require light. For health care, the most important aspect of medical cameras is the core technology for emitting and detecting light within the body’s cavities, which contain fluids, bone, soft/connective-tissue, and narrow regions.
How It Works: Light Detection
Medical cameras include a light source; these can be LEDs on the tip of the endoscope/medical device or light from a bright light source external to the body, which is transmitted down an endoscope cable. The light source must emit enough light for generating an image even in dark regions of the body.
When light is conveyed along a cable, it bounces along walls of the cable until it reaches the target area in the patient’s body. This optical phenomena is called total internal reflection, which is how fiber optic cables carry information for other purposes.
The target area is then illuminated. A charge-coupled device (CCD) or complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) chip then receives / picks up the reflected light and generates the reflected image.
Sometimes the fiber-optic cable is directed into a video camera (for display on a monitor) or an image sensor (CCD or CMOS chip) can capture images like a digital camera or stream them into a computer for image-enhancement.
Medical camera image-transmission can be either wireless (with an integrated transmitter in the camera-medical device) or transmission via the flexible endoscope cables, such as fiber-optic cables. If transmission is wireless, then a radio transmitter sends the digital images outside the body to a receiver and computer for processing/image-enhancement and display.
Video From Surgery
Video has been a regular aspect of surgery for a while, with monitors displaying real-time procedures. Once, videos of live surgery meant a birds-eye external view of open surgery, projected onto a screen such as in teaching hospitals. Since the emergence of endoscopic minimally invasive surgery, operating room screens now display streaming video with internal views of more delicate procedures which the surgeons’ eyes could not see otherwise.
Furthermore, streaming high-definition video has evolved into an essential tool, center stage in many procedures. With micro medical cameras, video capabilities can be customized for surgical-device endoscopes as well as specialized endoscopic evacuation and irrigation devices that clean and remove debris on-demand during surgery. This Video Gallery includes direct visualization via the world’s smallest micro-camera (1.0mm diameter) with real-time heart imaging, knee exploration, laparoscopic view of an endoscopic upper GI procedure, gastroscopy, stent guidance and placement.
Latest Technology Trends
To sum up medical camera trends in one word: Miniaturization. This major trend for medical-camera components opens the doors for
- Highly customizable micro-medical camera solutions
- Minimally invasive procedures that are even less invasive (yes, more minimal) since smaller incisions will be required
- Use in more complex procedures in vital organs and delicate tissue such as cardiovascular, ENT, pulmonary and neurosurgery
- Incorporation within new digital health devices
- Integration within medical robotic tools
Last but not least, the above can result in reduced overall costs, especially for disposable, single-use devices which are now in demand more than ever.
Also, important to follow are trends in the digital-cyber space impacting medical-camera technology and health care:
- Telemedicine is already relying on images and videos transferred between patient and physicians to-from the convenience and safety of home and clinics
- Online training of medical professional via medical videos and broadcasted live surgeries webcasts
- PACS Picture Archiving and Communication Systems in the cloud with more and more digital output from cameras
- Cybersecurity challenges to protect medical-camera output
Medical camera images and videos are now shared widely among networked health care providers, patients and their insurers. Not trivial is the emergence and rapid rise of healthcare breaches and ransomware attacks in recent years
- Additional regulations and standards
The latest digital imaging and technology trends must adhere to changing HIPAA and EU Data Privacy regulations to assure precious patient images remain private and within the domain of the responsible organizations
Innovations & New Technology
We can look forward to more advances in how medical cameras see through the body:
- Augmented reality / virtual reality
- Improvements in image capture – faster acquisition, improved image quality, developments specific to high-performance video
- 2D image capture evolving to 3D
- Artificial Intelligence “filters” as a “supplemental lense” for analyzing imaging data (regulatory challenges still exist to clear such applications)
- Remote patient monitoring and visualization
- New embedded vision solutions – for image acquisition, embedded procession, software & connectivity, e.g., in medical handheld devices
- More sophisticated cloud-based PACS
- Better protection and analysis of DICOM medical camera image files (to protect privacy of individuals who are the subject of the image and reduce risk of violating regulations)
- Machine vision with increased automation for medicine and life science research
With deployment throughout hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, diagnostic centers, and specialty clinics, the journey of medical cameras continues. Stay tuned!