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Confocal laser endomicroscopy in head and neck cancer: steps forward?

Volgger, Veronikaa; Conderman, Christianb; Betz, Christian Stephana

Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery: April 2013 - Volume 21 - Issue 2 - p 164–170
doi: 10.1097/MOO.0b013e32835df135
HEAD AND NECK ONCOLOGY: Edited by Piero Nicolai and Cesare Piazza

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.

aDepartment of Otorhinolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery, Klinikum der Universität München, Munich, Germany

bDepartment of Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery, University of California – Irvine Medical Center, Irvine, California, USA

Correspondence to Dr Christian Stephan Betz, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery, Klinikum der Universität München, Marchioninistr. 15, 81377 Munich, Germany. Tel: +49 89 7095 0; e-mail:

© 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins