Medical Technology

The History of the Endoscope

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The concept of examining the internal organs of the human body in 'real time' is not a new one, the idea has been circulating since 1806 when Philip Bozzini invented an instrument which he called a ‘Lichtleiter’ or ‘light conductor’.  He used his invention to examine the cavities, canals and hollow organs of the body.  However, like many new and innovative ideas, at the time his invention was met with disapproval and scepticism, particularly from the Vienna Medical Society who believed it was too invasive.

It was not until sixteen years later in 1822 that William Beaumont, a US army surgeon, stationed at Mackintosh Island in Michigan made a major step by being the first to use external electric lighting to improve the performance of the endoscopy.  Later smaller bulbs were manufactured making it possible for the internal organs to be fully illuminated.

Progress continued to be made when in 1908 Charles David, physician invented the hysteroscopy as a direct result of the production of smaller bulbs.  However, Hans Christian Jacobeans has been credited with the invention of the first endoscopy, the instrument that we know and recognised it today. The first endoscopy to be used in the form of the Thorascopy in 1910 was used to explore the thorasic cavity, whilst the Laporascopy was first used in 1012  by Heinz Kalk to diagnose liver and gallstone diseases.

In 1945 Karl Storz began in earnest to produce instruments for the examination of internal organs starting with instruments for the examination of the ears, nose and throat (ENT). He later joined forces combining his skills and a common vision with Harold Hopkins and together they revolutionised the field of medical optics.

The word endoscopy means to look inside, it is principally a simple light delivery system.  Its physical make up is either a rigid or flexible rod with a lens which transmits internal body images to the person looking through it from a fiberscope, or it can be used as an additional channel to allow entry of a medical instrument for manipulation proposes.

The endoscope has numerous other applications outside of the medical sphere such as in the field of architecture, bomb disposal and surveillance through tight and restricted spaces.  The recent development of the robotic system has made it possible for surgeons to operate from a site physically removed from the patient.  Whilst there a few drawback associated with endoscopes such as risk of infection, organ puncture or over-sedation, the benefits of non-invasive surgery far outweigh the disadvantages.

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