BACKGROUND: Scientists have developed the world's first system capable of delivering both high definition and narrow-band imaging technology to gastrointestinal examinations. The ability to get a picture of the digestive tract in greater detail helps doctors to better detect worrisome growths inside the colon, like polyps and precancerous lesions. UVA doctors are receiving a half-million-dollar upgrade in endoscopes as part of ongoing efforts to make the most advanced technology available to patients.
HOW IT WORKS: Narrow band imaging works by changing the white light emitted by the endoscope to a bluish light, which has a narrower wavelength. The blue light gives a greater visual contrast of the surface structure of the body parts being examined. Combining this with the HDTV signal from a video processor offers very clear views of anatomical structures and fine capillaries, and most notably changes that are characteristic of lesions, such as a slight thickening of the mucosa.
WHAT ARE COLONOSCOPIES? Colonoscopies are viewed as the "gold standard" for catching colorectal cancer before it has a chance to take root and spread. Gastroenterologists recommend that men and women over the age of 50, without a risk of colon cancer, get a colonoscopy every ten years, while those at high risk should receive one earlier and more frequently. In colonoscopies, physicians visually examine the lining of the colon and rectum. Upper endoscopies are used to examine the esophagus, stomach and the upper part of the small intestine (the duodenum). The colonoscope is a thin flexible instrument measuring between 48 inches to 72 inches long. It has a small video camera attached to the end so it can record images of the large intestine. The "scope" is passed through the rectum and into the colon to directly examine the lining of the lower digestive tract -- a full five feet of twists and turns.