The single most important technology in the world today is fiber optics. Fiber optics brings us all gadgetry wirelessly and via satellite. They are especially important in the medical arena for diagnosing and treating many diseases. Thin flexible strands are capable of insertion into blood vessels, arteries, and other parts of the human body and with the use of highly specialized fiber optic instrumentation, physicians can see and work inside the delicate organs. These strands of special infrared glass or crystalline hollow fibers along with UV transmitting fibers provide accurate radiometric measurements of temperature, chemical sensing, and the delivery of UV and IR laser power for the destruction and removal of diseased tissues. These instruments are called endoscopes and arthroscopes, and fiber optic technology enables the surgeon to see and repair damaged tissues and organs through tiny incisions.
The endoscope is an instrument that contains two sections of fibers in a long tube with one section focusing light on the tissue to be examined and the other transmitting light reflected from the tissue to enable the doctor to see detailed imagery of the area. There are various types of endoscopes that are designed to examine specific parts of the body – knees, shoulders, heart, lungs, and colon. The arthroscope is another highly specialized piece of equipment that uses fiber optic technology. It is a straight tube with lenses and fiber bundles that vary in size from – as tiny as 1/12 of an inch. This scope is used to examine joints and is inserted through a tiny incision with the light transmitting via fiber optics to the tip of the scope. This provides a thorough examination for diagnosis and treatment of torn ligaments (cartilage), muscle tears, etc. The fibers also measure temperatures and other body functions and are used for the actual surgical repairs. Fiber optics enables quick and accurate analyses of blood chemistries. The greatest benefit of medical fiber optics is derived by the patient – it allows for repairs of major problems through small incisions with little patient discomfort and faster healing. Emergency situations involving excessive bleeding are resolved through use of intense laser light as the light cauterizes ruptured blood vessels. Fiber optics is also used to remove cancerous and other abnormal skin growths.
Our civilization is in a new generation of medical devices using specialty fiber optics for invasive and diagnostic therapies. New fibers are being developed continually for surgical lasers with importance being placed on the applications of these fibers – fabrication techniques and fiber characterization – in the medical field. Fiber optic training and development is necessary to provide physicians with more and advanced medical equipment to enable the delivery of better medical services to those needing medical services.