The PillCam capsule endoscopy is an innovative and non-invasive way to detect and diagnose disorders of the small intestine – and it’s as simple as swallowing a pill!
Developed in 2000 by a group of GI doctors in Great Britain in an effort to determine the cause of bleeding in the small intestine, the PillCam small capsule containing video camera and light source. The capsule measures only 1.1 cm x 2.6 cm – about the size of a large pill – and weighs less than 4 grams. PillCam’s imaging device captures and transmits images of the small intestine at a rate of 6 images per second of the small intestine over an 8-hour period as it travels through the bowel. The latest PillCam technology also includes innovative features like adaptive frame rate technology, which supports image acquisition that is uniquely suited to each patient’s motility. Studies have shown that the PillCam is more effective than a traditional endoscopy when it comes to detecting the source of bleeding in the small intestine. The video capsule was initially cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2001, and today is used to detect and diagnose disorders of the small intestine, including small bowel tumors, Crohn’s disease, malabsorption disorders (such as Celiac disease), peptic ulcers, iron deficiency anemia and suspected intestinal tract bleeding of the small bowel.
To begin the process, the patient simply swallows the PillCam with a glass of water. Once swallowed, the capsule begins transmitting images of the inside of the esophagus, stomach and small bowel to a receiver worn by the patient. After 8 hours, the patient returns the receiver to the doctor, who then downloads the information to a computer, and reviews the images to identify abnormalities or sources of bleeding. The patient eventually passes the capsule through the colon and it is eliminated in the stool and discarded. Much like an x-ray, the capsule is purely diagnostic and cannot be used to take biopsies, apply therapy, or mark abnormalities for surgery. Moreover, the capsule cannot be controlled once it has been ingested, so that once it has passed a suspicious abnormality, its progress cannot be slowed to better visualize the area. Despite these limitations, capsule endoscopy is frequently the test of choice for finding a source of small bowel bleeding if standard endoscopy has failed to do so.