A non intrusive approach, which allows a consultant dermatologist to see what lays beneath your skin at a useful depth.
Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is simlilar in principle to ultrasound, using low level, infrared laser light, rather than sound. Also offering greater resolution than ultrasound and other common imaging techniques.
Originally developed in 1991 and first used for retinal scans, OCT has benefited from research, improved techniques, use of longer wavelengths. Now a valuable tool in a variety of medical fields, not least dermatology.
The latest processing software and optical interferometers, which filter out unwanted light, give a consultant a remarkably clear picture beneath your skin.
Being able to perform a live, optical biopsy, without any need for a scalpel, is valuable to our patients and consultants. No damage to the skin, or downtime, diagnostic information is immediately available.
Helping to spot early stage skin cancer is a key area for OCT. There are uses on melanoma, such as measuring tumour depth, although the prime use is in assessing conditions such as basal and squamous cell carcinoma.
Studies to date have shown improved diagnostic accuracy and certainty. The imaging depth and field of view OCT offers is greater even than another modern imaging technique we use, called confocal microscopy.
There is no conflict, confocal microscopy offers higher cellular resolution and differentiation. Being able to mimic the view under a powerful microscope is a key factor for certain skin cancers, whereas OCT gives a broader picture.
They are complimentary and for a range of skin cancers, OCT is ideal to bring the most important factor our patients need. Early, accurate diagnosis, which reduces required skin cancer treatment and improves cure rates.
Further OCT Benefits
Beyond diagnosis, OCT can be helpful in identifying excision margins prior to skin cancer surgery, guiding surgical intervention, or monitoring an area after treatment. Helping to reduce wound size and watch over recovery.
A tool which gives an immediate view in detail, to differentiate epidermal and dermal structures, hair follicles, or minute glands, naturally has other dermatological uses. Nail infections can become clear, psoriasis, or scleroderma be better understood.
Our consultants make the approach available to all our patient where this will be the best option. Our primary use is still in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer, suited to a clinic dedicated to the field.
We hope the information above helps explain optical coherence tomography. If you are due for a visit including OCT and need to know more, or simply wish to investigate, by all means contact us for further details at any time.