The latest 12mm by 6mm capsules have their own light source and are able to take hundreds of photographs over a period of seven or eight hours while their batteries last. The photos are beamed via Bluetooth through the body to a receiver held against the body. The data received is downloaded to a PC and read by a specialist gastroenterologist.
“All of us in this unit believe this is an essential procedure in a modern GI unit because it has so many benefits for patients,” said gastroenterologist Dr Ray Shidrawi. “While we have had very efficient means of looking at most of the alimentary canal, the small intestine from the terminal ileum to the distal small bowel, some three or four metres in length, has always been a problem until now.” “Capsule endoscopy is most useful when looking at Crohn’s disease, unexplained iron deficiency resulting from bleeding and of course cancers,” he said. “By diagnosing small intestine cancers early we are actually saving lives; by having more detailed information we can tailor treatments for a range of diseases and sometimes just as importantly, we can exclude others.” Work is currently under way to extend capsule battery life so that the whole of the colon is covered by the camera in the capsule and a capsule able to take a biopsy or steer itself to a known problem area is also at the design stage.