Pediatricians are extremely facile with otoscopy, but sometimes children squirm making visualization of the ear canal difficult – and even small amounts of cerumen can obscure our view of the tympanic membrane. Jim Berbee, an engineer turned emergency room physician, founded WiscMed (Madison, Wisconsin) and has recently introduced the $1500 Wispr digital otoscope. It is a video otoscope unlike any I’ve reviewed before. It can be used with otoscope handles from Welch Allyn and Heine, both battery and wall mounted. The device features a 1 mm x 1 mm camera with a permanent antifog coating, a 90-degree field of view, and an auto exposure and focus capability between 3.5 mm and 5 cm. This means you can navigate around cerumen in the ear canal and get an extremely clear image of the canal and tympanic membrane.
One can switch easily between video and picture mode, and images or videos can be captured with a click of a button. These can then be reviewed with patients and parents, merely by swiping on the device’s touchscreen. In my limited experience with the Wispr, parents and patients are very impressed with the captured images and videos. The first patient I examined with the Wispr had a previously undiagnosed tympanic membrane perforation, resulting from a tympanostomy tube placed years ago!
The device has 64 GB of memory, sufficient for 30 minutes of video at 15 frames per second. It includes a usb port so images or videos can be written to a thumb drive, which can then be used to transfer files to a computer for inclusion in the Electric Healthcare Record (EHR). I’ve discovered that the Wispr is compatible with my 16 GB “Scandisk Connect” wireless usb drive, which can expedite data transfer and EHR integration. The device is fun to use, and I believe most pediatricians will be tempted to replace their traditional otoscope with the Wispr. It should be available by the time you read this.