Flexible gastro-intestinal (GI) endoscopy is an integral diagnostic and therapeutic tool in clinical gastroenterology. High quality standards for safety, patients' comfort, and efficiency have already been achieved. Clinical challenges and technical approaches are discussed in this short review.
Image enhanced endoscopy for further characterization of mucosal and vascular patterns includes dye-spray or virtual chromoendoscopy. For confocal laser endoscopy, endocytoscopy, and autofluorescence clinical value has not yet been finally evaluated. An extended viewing field provided by additional cameras in new endoscopes can augment detection of polyps behind folds. Attachable caps, flaps, or balloons can be used to flatten colonic folds for better visualization and stable position.
Variable stiffness endoscopes, radiation-free visualization of endoscope position, and different overtube devices help reducing painful loop formation in clinical routine. Computer assisted and super flexible self-propelled colonoscopes for painless sedation-free endoscopy need further research. Single-use devices might minimize the risk of infection transmission in the future.
Various exchangeable accessories are available for resection, dissection, tunneling, hemostasis, treatment of stenosis and closure of defects, including dedicated suturing devices. Multiple arm flexible devices controlled via robotic platforms for complex intraluminal and transmural endoscopic procedures require further improvement.