New Diagnostic Tool Available at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital sounds like something from a sci-fi movie: a camera tiny enough to be swallowed in a pill, yet powerful enough to take a high-resolution video. Yet that futuristic technology is available today at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital. Doctors are using it to get an inside view of the small intestine when bleeding is suspected there.
“This is one of the most advanced technologies we have in gastroenterology,” said Kevin Marks, MD, a gastroenterologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Katy. “The high-definition images from the PillCam are excellent – imagine watching the intestinal lining on HDTV.”
Several things can cause bleeding in the small intestine, including ulcers, cancer, noncancerous tumors and blood vessel abnormalities. One way to see where the bleeding is coming from is with endoscopy. An endoscope – a long, thin tube with a camera on the end – can be run down through the throat, esophagus and stomach to the small intestine. Or it can be run up through the anus and colon. However, the small intestine is 20 feet long, and only portions are reachable this way.
“By using the pill camera, we can view the entire small intestine without subjecting the patient to traditional procedures like endoscopy,” added Dr. Marks. “It’s a much better experience for the patient, and it provides accurate information for the physician.”
Here’s how it works: The pill camera – which is about the size of a vitamin – is swallowed like any other capsule. As it works its way through a person’s digestive tract, it takes two to six pictures per second for up to eight hours. The pictures are transmitted to a small recorder that is worn on a special belt. Afterward, the pill camera is passed in a bowel movement; it doesn’t have to be retrieved. The recorder is returned to the doctor, and a software system strings the images together into a video.
“It’s really a remarkable technology,” said Dr. Marks. “In the long run, I think it’s going to change how we approach diagnosing many conditions of the digestive system.”