Purpose of review: Confocal laser endomicroscopy (CLE) is a novel, noninvasive technique used to obtain microanatomical images of the inner lining of hollow organs. It has been used in a variety of clinical specialties to aid in the diagnosis and treatment planning of inflammatory and neoplastic processes. Our intent is to provide an up-to-date review of the literature in the setting of head and neck diseases as well as describing our own initial results and areas of future research.
Recent findings: With increasing experience using CLE in the upper aerodigestive tract (UADT), evidence is mounting that this method can be a useful adjunct to standard endoscopy and other diagnostic techniques. Recent publications have shown that by using CLE, microanatomical structures of healthy and diseased mucosa can easily be identified, allowing for a differentiation of dysplastic/neoplastic and benign mucosal lesions. Standardized diagnostic protocols as well as clinically relevant classification systems for the UADT have not yet been described.
Summary: CLE is an imaging modality that allows real-time visualization of mucosal cellular architecture and other histologic characteristics. First reports on its use in the UADT have yielded promising results, but the true value of this method is yet to be determined.