The Urology Department of the Klinik am Ring is one of the first centers in Germany to have the new state-of-the-art narrowband imaging system from Olympus for imaging the bladder mucosa. The new narrowband technology allows physicians to detect bladder tumors at a very early, curable stage and reduce the recurrence rate.
If urination is painful or there is blood in the urine, this could indicate bladder cancer. Only a special examination known as cystoscopy can provide clarity. Through the urethra, the doctor inserts a thin, flexible endoscope (cystoscope) with a camera attached to it into the patient's bladder and examines the tissue for changes. "The quality of the imaging of the bladder wall plays an essential role in early diagnosis," explains Dr. Stephan Neubauer, urologist at KLINIK am RING in Cologne.
As one of a total of ten German centers, the urology department of the KLINIK am RING has had a completely new technique at its disposal since the beginning of the year for scanning patients' bladders for changes suspicious of tumors - the so-called narrow-band (NBI) technology. In this process, a special filter removes certain color components from normal white light. "Contrasts become sharper as a result, and blood vessels and tumor vessels in the bladder mucosa become visually more prominent," explains Dr. Neubauer. "Even very flat, superficial tumors that are easily overlooked with conventional standard white light endoscopes can be detected with it." The highlight: depending on requirements, the surgeon can switch between NBI and white light imaging, at the touch of a button. "This gives us a much more detailed view of the bladder mucosa than was previously the case," Neubauer is pleased to say.
HD quality images
The state-of-the-art cystoscope also allows images to be recorded in HD, ensuring excellent image quality. While conventional endoscopes produce images via a bundle of light-conducting optical fibers to a camera located at the tip, the HD video endoscope works with a so-called "chip-on-the-tip" technology. This means that a camera chip attached to the end of the endoscope produces high-resolution images of the bladder in HD quality, comparable to a digital camera.
Caught early, bladder cancer is curable
"The new HD video endoscope with NBI technology enables us to diagnose a bladder tumor at a very early stage. This applies not only to the initial diagnosis, but also to a possible recurrence of the tumor (relapse) after cancer treatment," emphasizes Dr. Neubauer. For example, a meta-analysis carried out on 1040 patients showed that a quarter more tumors were found with narrow-band cystoscopy than with conventional white-light cystoscopy. Another study demonstrated a 10 percent reduction in the recurrence rate compared to the standard procedure. This means that the new technique is also of great benefit for regular check-ups after tumor therapy has been completed.
According to estimates by the Robert Koch Institute, around 29,000 people in Germany develop bladder cancer every year. Whether bladder cancer can be cured depends primarily on the stage of the tumor: the decisive factor is whether the cancerous tissue has already attacked deeper layers of the bladder wall or remains confined to the surface. "For the patient, early detection of a bladder tumor means timely initiation of therapy and thus a greater chance of successful treatment," Neubauer sums up.
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