Confocal microscopy is an emerging technique that can offer a non-invasive alternative to biopsy.
An up and coming technique, confocal microscopy is used as a non-invasive way to examine the skin and help diagnose skin cancers.
John Durkin, MD, FAAD, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, compared the technique to a “virtual biopsy.” Durkin spoke with MD Magazine® about the imaging technique and it’s benefits at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) in Washington, DC.
“The providers that refer patients to me to get this imaging done really do like having the opportunity and having it in their tool kit to be able to offer to their patients,” said Durkin.
MD Magazine: What is confocal microscopy and how is it used?
Durkin: I work with a piece of technology called confocal microscopy. It's a relatively new imaging technique that's up and coming, especially in dermatology. And we use this imaging technique in order to look a little bit deeper into the skin and help us to diagnose skin cancers or decide if something is worrisome and needs to be removed, or if it's okay. It's almost—I like to tell my patients too—it's almost like an optical biopsy or a virtual biopsy without cutting into the skin.
What are the benefits of confocal microscopy?
I mean the number one thing is for patients. Patients do not consider what we do, when we take a biopsy, to be trivial. We do so many biopsies all day, I think sometimes we forget what it's like for the patient to go through that, being stuck with a needle, having something cut off, dealing with a wound, getting a scar. So, it's really nice for patients to do something that's non-invasive, non-painful, doesn't leave a scar. So, it's great for them. My patients absolutely love it when we're able to do that instead of cutting them—especially if we decide, hey this is something that's completely fine, we do not need to remove it. So, providers like it, too—sometimes we aren't sure, we don't know, is this something that is cancerous or worrisome or not, especially when it's on the face and in cosmetically sensitive areas. The providers that refer patients to me to get this imaging done really do like having the opportunity and having it in their tool kit to be able to offer to their patients.