From Our 2004 Archives

Camera Pill Peeks into Small Intestine

A camera pill (capsule endoscopy) can find more small-intestinal disease than barium examinations and CT. This was demonstrated in patients known not to have a stricture (narrowing) of the small bowel at barium studies. (A stricture might prevent the camera pill from passing down the small bowel.)

Comment: The camera pill will complement CT (CAT Scan) and other tests, not replace them, in looking at the small intestine, for example, in Crohn's disease.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com

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Swallow and Say 'Cheese'

Camera in a pill helps diagnose small intestine disorders

SUNDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDayNews) -- A miniature video camera that's swallowed like a pill can give doctors images of areas of the small intestine that can't be seen by other diagnostic techniques.

The camera can provide digital images of the entire length of the small intestine (as long as 25 feet) and could be an important step forward in diagnosing small bowel disorders, says a study in the January issue of Radiology.

The "camera pill" is called capsule endoscopy (CE). It's about the size of a large vitamin pill and is swallowed by the patient after an eight-hour fast. The CE transmits a continuous stream of digital images to a small data recorder that's worn around the patient's waist. That data is then downloaded and analyzed by the doctor.

It takes about eight hours for the CE to travel through the body.

While CE can indicate the presence of abnormalities in the small intestine, it can't pinpoint the location of those abnormalities. That's why it's most effective when used in conjunction with computed tomography (CT).

"As the camera tumbles through the intestine, you don't know exactly where the mass is located. CT, by contrast, provides a very good global view of the body, and specialized parameters can be employed to localize lesions," study author Dr. Amy K. Hara, a diagnostic radiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., says in a prepared statement.

People with Crohn's disease are among those who may benefit from CE. Crohn's is an inflammatory bowel disease that occurs most often in the lower section of the small intestine and causes diarrhea, bleeding and abdominal pain.

--Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, January 2004

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