Background and study aims: Histological examination of gastrointestinal lesions is currently based on light-microscopic examination of thin-slice specimens, with hematoxylin and eosin staining. A study of the use of laser-scanning confocal microscopy (LCM) to obtain immediate microscopic images of untreated specimens for examining colorectal lesions was carried out. A probe-type LCM prototype endomicroscope that can be passed through the working channel of an endoscope has also been developed. Materials and methods: The study materials consisted of colorectal lesions resected either endoscopically or surgically at Showa University Northern Yokohama Hospital. One hundred untreated specimens were examined using LCM. The histopathological findings in the lesions were seven cases of normal colonic mucosa, five hyperplastic polyps, 68 adenomas with low-grade dysplasia, 10 adenomas with high-grade dysplasia, and 10 adenocarcinomas. An argon laser beam with a wavelength of 488 nm was used for the LCM study. Observation of the resected normal colonic mucosa (in vitro) and the rectal mucosa of a healthy volunteer (in vivo) was possible using the endomicroscope. The LCM images for each specimen were compared with the hematoxylin-eosin-stained histopathological cross-sections. Results: The LCM images corresponded well with the conventional hematoxylin-eosin light-microscopic images. The nuclei were not visualized in normal mucosa or hyperplastic polyps. In adenomas with high-grade dysplasia and carcinomas, nuclei were more often visible than in adenomas with low-grade dysplasia. The rate of visualization of nuclei was significantly different (P < 0.01) between these two groups (60.0% vs. 10.3%). In LCM images using endomicroscope, it was possible to recognize the orifices of the colonic glands and goblet cells both in vitro and in vivo. Conclusions: Laser-scanning confocal microscopy provides immediate images that correspond well with those of hematoxylin-eosin staining. An improved probe-type LCM endomicroscope is being developed which should provide better histological images of colorectal lesions in vivo.
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