Tiny Camera Pill Can Find Problems Other Tests Miss

Strong is First Upstate Hospital to Use New Device to See Inside the Small Intestine

April 30, 2002

Imagine a vitamin pill-sized camera that could travel through your body taking pictures, helping diagnose a problem your doctor previously would have found only through surgery.  No longer is such technology the stuff of science-fiction films. Strong Memorial Hospital of the University of Rochester Medical Center is among just two locations in New York State where doctors are using this innovative technology to diagnose problems in the small intestines.

The Given Diagnostic Imaging System, developed by an Israeli-based company and approved by the FDA last year, is now available to patients at Strong according to Uma Sundaram, M.D., chief of the Digestive Disease Unit at Strong.  The device is a miniature video camera and transmitter built in to a capsule that is swallowed by the patient.

For years, doctors have used small cameras attached to fiber-optic tubes to look inside the digestive tract and diagnose illnesses.  These tests, such as endoscopy and colonoscopy, allow for views of the esophagus and stomach, and the colon, but the small intestine is too long and out of the reach of those diagnostic instruments.  Often, patients whose problems appeared to stem from the small intestine – problems like suspected internal bleeding or unexplained abdominal pain – were subject to surgery to diagnose the problem.  The new, tiny pill-camera actually travels through the small intestine snapping pictures at a rate of two per second.  The images are transmitted wirelessly from the camera to a small pack the patient wears like a belt.  During its eight-hour trip through the digestive tract, the battery-powered pill uses a wide-angle lens to transmit about 50,000 images capable of identifying growths, internal bleeding and other problems.  The pill eventually passes through the colon and is eliminated naturally and safely.

“It’s an amazing breakthrough and holds great promise as a tool for diagnosing patients with specific problems,” Dr. Sundaram says.  “Though it won’t replace the technology we currently use to diagnose problems above and below the small intestine, it is a tremendous asset for helping us visualize an area previously beyond our reach, short of surgery.  It could prove a great benefit to patients as a less invasive procedure, especially in cases where we can limit the need for surgery for patients who are already experiencing abdominal pain or internal bleeding.”

Strong is currently screening patients to identify appropriate cases where patients might benefit from the new diagnostic device.  For more information, ask your primary care doctor or call the Digestive Disease Unit at (585) 275-1590.

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Lori Barrette
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