A compact clinically compatible fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) system was designed and built for intraoperative disease diagnosis and validated in vivo in a hamster oral carcinogenesis model. This apparatus allows for the remote image collection via a flexible imaging probe consisting of a gradient index objective lens and a fiber bundle. Tissue autofluorescence (337 nm excitation) was imaged using an intensified CCD with a gate width down to 0.2 ns. We demonstrate a significant contrast in fluorescence lifetime between tumor and normal tissues at 450 nm and an over 80% intensity decrease at 390 nm emission in tumor versus normal areas. The time-resolved images were minimally affected by tissue morphology, endogenous absorbers, and illumination. These results demonstrate the potential of FLIM as an intraoperative diagnostic technique.
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