For pain-free imaging, just swallow the camera
YOUR INTESTINES can now be painlessly filmed by an intelligent pill, ushering in a new era of minimally invasive gastroenterology. The technique is called capsule endoscopy and it uses devices such as PillCam, developed by the innovative Israeli company Given Imaging. Miniaturisation enables a television studio to be squeezed into a device about the size of an antibiotic capsule, allowing pain-free video capture of the surface of the 6m gastrointestinal tract.
All that is required is a glass of water and a trained healthcare professional. The capsule is swallowed with a few sips of water. Then natural peristalsis (the normal gut movements that deal with our food) powers the device from mouth to rectum and the video transmitted from the capsule is captured wirelessly by a small receiver worn on a belt.
After natural excretion of the capsule, the receiver is removed from the belt and the video is downloaded to be read offline by specialist capsule endoscopy readers.
The technique was initially devised for the small intestine but there are now also capsules designed to scout the oesophagus, stomach and colon.
Years of research indicate capsule endoscopy provides imaging information similar to conventional push endoscopy (where a fibre-optic tube is inserted into the body).
Established in 2006 by Professor Owen Epstein, the Royal Free PillCam unit in north west London has carried out more than 3,000 PillCam procedures, examining the oesophagus, stomach, small bowel and colon, making it one of the first and most experienced capsule units in the world.
The unit provides a regional NHS PillCam service and currently undertakes 20 to 25 procedures weekly.
The Royal Free private patients unit is now offering the video capsule, where appropriate, to patients who prefer this painless method of imaging the gastrointestinal tract, which might be done as a whole-bowel health check, or to investigate symptoms.
Findings can be reported rapidly, thanks to a team of experienced fulltime PillCam nurse specialists, aided and supervised by gastroenterologists with specialist expertise in capsule endoscopy.
In most patients, intestinal symptoms arise from functional rather than anatomical disorders. Common functional symptoms include bloating and distension and irritable bowel symptoms, such as abdominal discomfort and unpredictable bowel habit. Anatomical disorders include peptic ulcer disease, polyps, diverticulosis and bowel tumours.
PillCam capsule endoscopy efficiently identifies the likely cause of a clinical problem. This then determines whether conventional endoscopy is required (for example for biopsy or polyp removal).
royalfreeprivatepatients.com, 020 7317 7751, rf.privateenquiries@ nhs.net