Saturday, April 4, 2009


A swallowable camera, little bigger than a normal pill, can snap pictures as it floats through the stomach and intestine, offering a less invasive way to perform diagnosis than an endoscope or surgery.The pills are used on patients who typically have internal bleeding or abdominal pain that is hard to diagnose. Up until now doctors have used an endoscope – a camera on a flexible tube – to examine such problems. However much of the small intestine, which is tightly coiled and stretches for up to 6 meters, could not be reached using this method and the only alternative was for patients to swallow barium and have an X-ray which produced poor quality images.Now the camera pill allows the doctors a near perfect view of the inside of this organ as it makes its way through a patient's body.

The pill is similar to a digital camera and sends 50,000 still images from along its journey to a small recorder device worn on the patient's belt. After eight hours the doctors take the recorder and download it onto a computer before watching the footage to see if there are any signs of bleeding, disease or swelling. If a concerning area is found then dedicated treatment can be taken to combat the problem.
Patients having the pill, which cost less than £400 each, must fast the day before but can leave the hospital and go to work as normal while the pill is in their body. The whole process takes just a day and patients will generally be given the results within a few days.

One patient to benefit was BRITNEY , 28, of Texas, who has suffered from severe abdominal pain for three years. For most of that time doctors were unable to diagnose what was the cause was, and it was only through the use of the camera pill that a firm diagnosis was possible. When the pain first started it would last a couple of days and was bearable but by the end it was really bad and I was doubled over in agony unable to do anything. It was very frustrating that no one was able to diagnose what the problem was.

I was referred to Dr John last year and when he suggested the camera pill I thought it sounded strange but just said 'let's do it'. It is quite a big pill but ok to swallow and I didn't feel anything as it passed through me. One of the nurses allowed me to watch the live images which was quite amusing.A few days later Dr John said the footage proved without doubt that I had Crohn's Disease which is like an inflamed gut. It was such a relief to finally have a diagnosis. It is a very cool piece of equipment. I've had nearly every test available but this was the best and also the least invasive. Also because it showed exactly where it was in my intestine they were able to decide which medication was most suitable. I still have a lot of pain but at least we know what we are dealing with now and the steps to control it.

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