Short Wave Infrared Endoscope

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llustrates a short wave infrared image of a middle ear model with no fluid taken using the short wave infrared otoscope device Illustrates four SWIR images of the middle ear cavity of a patient's ear taken using the short wave infrared otoscope device Illustrates four visible images of the middle ear cavity of a patient's ear taken using visible light illumination and detection.
Professor Moungi Bawendi
Department of Chemistry, MIT
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Oliver Bruns
Department of Chemistry, MIT
Jessica Carr
Department of Chemistry, MIT
Tulio Valdez
Department of Chemistry, MIT
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Ben Rockney
MIT Technology Licensing Officer
Patent Protection

Systems and Methods for a Short Wave Infrared Device

US Patent Pending
Using the Shortwave Infrared to Image Middle Ear Pathologies
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 6, 2016, p. 9989-9994


This invention is an optical device which uses shortwave infrared light to detect middle ear pathologies.

Problem Addressed

Studies have shown that about 8 million children in the U.S each year are diagnosed with otitis media, the medical term encompassing middle ear infections. A clear diagnostic sign of a middle ear infection is the buildup of fluid behind the ear drum. Reliably identifying the presence of middle ear fluid can be challenging in a pediatric patient. Commonly used methods such as pneumotoscopy are highly operator-dependent and can suffer both in sensitivity and specificity even in the hands of an experienced practitioner. The development of an otoscope sensitive to shortwave infrared light would enable better contrast of fluid in an image of the ear, potentially resulting in more reliable fluid identification during an ear examination. 


The inventors have developed a Short Wavelength Infrared (SWIR) otoscope which could improve doctors' ability to diagnose middle ear infections. This device is composed of a light source, a SWIR camera, and a medical viewing instrument, such as an otoscope or an endoscope. The advantage of using SWIR light is the easier detection of middle ear fluid based on its strong light absorption.  Additionally, the shortwave infrared light can penetrate deeper within the tissue, enabling better visualization of the middle ear through the tympanic membrane. Using a SWIR otoscope, the middle ear with the presence of otitis media with effusion will become completely dark allowing for easy differentiation between the presence or absence of the middle ear fluid. In addition, under conditions of no otitis media, the SWIR otoscope is able to visualize in great detail the ossicular chain of the middle ear. This detail, which is obstructed by the tympanic membrane in visible and near-infrared imaging techniques, can allow an examiner to rule out ossicular chain disruptions.


  • Reliably identifies the presence of middle ear fluid in a patient
  • Greater transparency of the ear drum enables clear visualization of underlying middle ear anatomy 
  • Add-on device that can be used with currently used otoscopes and endoscopes