Optical coherence tomography of the tympanic membrane and middle ear : a review

15 Mar 2019

OBJECTIVE : To evaluate the recent developments in optical coherence tomography (OCT) for tympanic membrane (TM) and middle ear (ME) imaging and to identify what further development is required for the technology to be integrated into common clinical use. REVIEW METHODS : A comprehensive literature search was performed for English language articles published from January 1966 to January 2018 with the keywords “tympanic membrane or middle ear,”“optical coherence tomography,” and “imaging.” CONCLUSION : Conventional imaging techniques cannot adequately resolve the microscale features of TM and ME, sometimes necessitating diagnostic exploratory surgery in challenging otologic pathology. As a high-resolution noninvasive imaging technique, OCT offers promise as a diagnostic aid for otologic conditions, such as otitis media, cholesteatoma, and conductive hearing loss. Using OCT vibrometry to image the nanoscale vibrations of the TM and ME as they conduct acoustic waves may detect the location of ossicular chain dysfunction and differentiate between stapes fixation and incus-stapes discontinuity. The capacity of OCT to image depth and thickness at high resolution allows 3-dimensional volumetric reconstruction of the ME and has potential use for reconstructive tympanoplasty planning and the follow-up of ossicular prostheses. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE : To achieve common clinical use beyond these initial discoveries, future in vivo imaging devices must feature low-cost probe or endoscopic designs and faster imaging speeds and demonstrate superior diagnostic utility to computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. While such technology has been available for OCT, its translation requires focused development through a close collaboration between engineers and clinicians.