Medical and Dental

Micro Scopes: Making Endoscopes Smaller

Once-revolutionary microdevices that allow doctors to examine internal parts of the human body are now commonplace. One of the most commonly used of these devices is the endoscope, and its use is growing.

The U.S. endoscopy market was valued at more than $9.87 billion in 2011, according to Sara Whitmore, analyst manager at iData Research Inc., a market research and consulting group based in Vancouver, B.C. “We expect it to exceed $16 billion by 2018,” Whitmore said. And a report by the market-forecasting firm BCC Research predicts global endoscopy sales will reach $33.7 billion by 2016.

That’s a lot of endoscopes.

Surprisingly, this growth has occurred despite a relative dry spell in technical advancements.The last big thing in endogadgets to gain market share, according to Whitmore, was capsule-type endoscopy, introduced in 2001. That’s not for lack of trying. Whitmore explained that new product development can cost more than a star NFL player’s contract and take years for approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Even if a company perseveres and makes it through all the required steps, there’s still no guarantee that physicians and patients will accept the new technology,” she said.

However, that doesn’t mean that existing technology isn’t being improved. Today’s endoscopes ride on the shoulders of better (and cheaper) electronics, improvements in micromanufacturing techniques, stronger, lighter materials and the engineering know-how to put it all together—the same sort of elbow grease that gave us smartphones and high-resolution televisions.

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