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December 3, 2001

Capsule camera offers alternative for GI diagnoses

By Kathi Ovnic


The latest technology to detect trouble in the small intestine is now available at the VA Hospital.

In the past, doctors have had difficulty diagnosing problems in the small intestine because they only were able to see about one-third of it by using the traditional entero-scopy, an uncomfortable procedure requiring manual insertion of a scope into the small intestine via the mouth. Now, with the help of a capsule-sized camera, doctors can obtain images of the entire small intestine with little or no discomfort to the patient.

Recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the technology was developed by Given Imaging, headquartered in Norcross. The patient simply swallows a small capsule containing a camera that transmits video images through radio frequency to a small recorder worn on a belt. As the capsule moves through the small intestine, the camera transmits pictures at the rate of two or three images per second, which are collected over a six-to-eight-hour period. The pictures are then downloaded to a computer for analysis.

The end result is images that give doctors an inside look at what is happening with patients who are suffering from gastrointestinal (GI) problems such as obscure chronic blood loss or iron-deficiency anemia. The camera also can be useful in identifying inflammatory bowel disease and in helping doctors distinguish between ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease.

“We are very excited about this product because we have been so limited in the past in attempting to diagnose small bowel problems such as obscure bleeding,” said Peter Bloom, chief of the GI section at the VA Hospital and assistant professor of medicine at the School of Medicine. “The quality of the images we are viewing in this area of the intestine is unprecedented. The capsule is safe and easy for the patient to tolerate, and it has the huge advantage of allowing the patient to go about his or her normal daily routine.”

While the capsule is not expected to replace colon-oscopy—presently it is designed for use in the small intestine rather than the large intestine, through which it does not move as smoothly—Bloom and his team plan further studies to find other diagnostic uses.

The VA Hospital is the first site in the Southeast to offer this diagnostic procedure. The procedure will soon be available through Emory Healthcare.

For more information, call the Health Connection at 404-778-7777.


Back to Emory Report December 3, 2001