hospital care image (big) The US Food and Drug Administration approved a capsule containing a tiny camera that takes pictures of the lining of the small intestine. The Given Diagnostic PillCam™ Imaging System can detect ]]>polyps]]>, ]]>cancer]]>, and sources of bleeding in the small intestine that current tests cannot always find.

How It Works

You swallow the small capsule containing the camera. As the capsule is digested, it passes through your small intestine while the camera snaps pictures twice every second. The capsule is eventually excreted naturally, without you feeling anything unusual.

As the capsule moves through the GI tract, it sends signals to a data recorder worn on a belt around your waist. You wear the recorder for about eight hours as you go about your daily activities. The images stored on the data recorder can then be downloaded to a computer for viewing by a physician.

The Hardware

The Given Diagnostic PillCam™ Imaging System has three components:

PillCam™ capsule—The capsule containing a tiny camera is 11 mm x 26 mm and weighs 4 grams. It moves smoothly and painlessly through the GI tract and is excreted in a bowel movement.

Data recorder and sensors—A data recorder worn on a belt around the waist is attached to sensors placed on the abdomen. This recorder receives data containing the pictures transmitted from the capsule to the sensors.

RAPID workstation—Image data from the data recorder is downloaded to a computer equipped with software called RAPID (Reporting and Processing Images and Data) Application Software. Physicians can then view the images as a video clip or as individual photos on the computer monitor.

How This Technology Helps Doctors and Patients

Currently, doctors rely on endoscopy to view the small intestine. This involves inserting an endoscope (a thin, lighted tube with a camera on the end) down the throat, through the stomach, and into the small intestine. But an endoscope cannot reach all of the 20-foot-long small intestine. The Given Diagnostic PillCam™ Imaging System provides doctors with pictures from the entire length of the small intestine. This helps them find problems in the small intestine that could not previously be seen.

The Given Diagnostic PillCam™ Imaging System is approved for use along with other endoscopic and radiological tests, not as a replacement for these tests.

Safety and Effectiveness

In clinical studies, the capsule, sensors, and data recorder caused no reported side effects. In one study, the Given Diagnostic PillCam™ Imaging System detected 86% of lesions in the small intestine compared with endoscopy, which detected only 50% of these lesions.

Recent research indicates that PillCam may also be effective in evaluations of the colon. Findings from a European trial were presented in May 2007 in Washington at an international meeting of digestive disease specialists.

There are several pros of the exam when compared with a routine ]]>colonoscopy]]>. It is much easier for a patient, as it basically involves just swallowing a pill. A camera traveling through the colon snaps about four images per second. The images produced, however, are not as good as those taken during a colonoscopy. In addition, PillCam is just a detection tool. It cannot take biopsies or remove polyps. Though due to its ease of use, it may be used in the future as a screening tool. More research is needed to support this procedure.