Optical imaging with a high-resolution microendoscope to identify cholesteatoma of the middle ear

Lauren L. Levy, Nancy Jiang, Eric Smouha, Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Andrew G. Sikora

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objectives/Hypothesis: High-resolution optical imaging is an imaging modality that allows visualization of structural changes in epithelial tissue in real time. Our prior studies using contrast-enhanced microendoscopy to image squamous cell carcinoma in the head and neck demonstrated that the contrast agent, proflavine, has high affinity for keratinized tissue. Thus, high-resolution microendoscopy with proflavine provides a potential mechanism to identify ectopic keratin production, such as that associated with cholesteatoma formation, and distinguish between uninvolved mucosa and residual keratin at the time of surgery. Study Design: Ex vivo imaging of histopathologically confirmed samples of cholesteatoma and uninvolved middle ear epithelium. Methods: Seven separate specimens collected from patients who underwent surgical treatment for cholesteatoma were imaged ex vivo with the fiberoptic endoscope after surface staining with proflavine. Following imaging, the specimens were submitted for hematoxylin and eosin staining to allow histopathological correlation. Results: Cholesteatoma and surrounding middle ear epithelium have distinct imaging characteristics. Keratin-bearing areas of cholesteatoma lack nuclei and appear as confluent hyperfluorescence, whereas nuclei are easily visualized in specimens containing normal middle ear epithelium. Hyperfluorescence and loss of cellular detail is the imaging hallmark of keratin, allowing for discrimination of cholesteatoma from normal middle ear epithelium. Conclusions: This study demonstrates the feasibility of high-resolution optical imaging to discriminate cholesteatoma from uninvolved middle ear mucosa based on the unique staining properties of keratin. Use of real-time imaging may facilitate more complete extirpation of cholesteatoma by identifying areas of residual disease. Laryngoscope, 2012

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1016-1020
Number of pages5
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • Cholesteatoma
  • high-resolution microendoscopy
  • keratin
  • optical imaging
  • otology


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