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Doctors Probe Bodies with Tiny Microscopes But Don’t Know What They Are Seeing

Because tiny space-age probes are used by only a handful of specialists around the country, a new study found that different labs are interpreting what they see in very different ways

smithsonian.com

Doctors are using cutting edge microscope probes to peer inside living cells and diagnose illness in the body’s most hard-to-reach cavities. But many of these doctors might not even be sure what they’re looking at. A new study found that different labs are interpreting what they see in very different ways.

To arrive at this conclusion, a team of clinical researchers sent videos of 25 different patients’ bile ducts taken by one of the teeny probes to six different specialists. The specialists demonstrated “poor” to “fair” agreement on what they were seeing in the videos. Some saw cancer, while others diagnosed inflammation or even wrote the footage off as benign.

“We can now see inside these tiny organs, but we just need to know exactly what we are looking at,” the researchers say in a statement.

Though the technology is available, the researchers conclude, physicians need to catch up with the times by developing standardized ways of interpreting what the videos reveal in order to harness their full diagnostic potential. Until that happens, perhaps it’s best to get a second opinion if your doctor is keen on testing out his or her space-age probe.

 

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