Background and study aims: Advances in endoscopy have led to imaging of the details of the gastric mucosa, but the histological diagnosis usually has to be confirmed by endoscopic biopsy. A method of confocal endomicroscopy that has recently been developed allows the observation of living cells in vivo. Several investigators have reported that the technique is of value, but there have as yet been no studies describing its application in gastric cancer. Patients and methods: Twenty-seven patients with early gastric cancer underwent confocal endomicroscopy (Pentax EG-3870CIK; Pentax, Tokyo, Japan). After intravenous administration of fluorescein sodium, confocal images obtained from the normal mucosa and from cancerous lesions were interpreted by two pathologists independently and compared with the histological findings, including CD34 immunostaining of biopsy specimens or resected specimens from the same sites. Results: Fluorescein yielded high-quality confocal images of the gastric mucosa; if cancer could be targeted (59%) images were mostly graded good. The images corresponded to the hematoxylin-eosin staining of transverse sections of specimens from the same sites. In the results for the interpretation by the two pathologists, the accuracy for the diagnosis of gastric cancer was 94.2% (pathologist A), and 96.2% (pathologist B), respectively. The accuracy decreased substantially when poor images and inaccessible lesions were included. Conclusions: Confocal endomicroscopy is useful in the diagnosis of gastric cancer but good quality images cannot always be obtained. In the future, it may allow virtual biopsy and help reduce unnecessary biopsies.
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