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Friday, January 22, 2016

Miniature Cameras For Your Intestine

Recently I saw an advertisement in a veterinary journal for a new product.  It is the size and shape of a large capsule or pill and contains numerous miniature cameras.  The idea is that you make the patient swallow this device and as it passes through the digestive tract it takes photographs which can be transmitted wirelessly to a recorder.  In human medicine this is called "capsule endoscopy".  I knew that such things were being developed but I honestly had no idea that they had actually come to market, especially in veterinary medicine.  The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine even describes it on their website as a routine diagnostic tool.

Here are some images that you can easily find on the internet.

This is so cool!  It's exciting that this kind of thing is now coming into routine use and can give us so much information with no invasiveness.  Radiology and ultrasound are great and still very important diagnostic tools that we can't do without.  But they can't let us see the inside of the GI tract with our own eyes.  Typical endoscopes are very useful, but they simply can't look at the entire digestive system because of its length.  They also require sedation in human medicine and anesthesia in veterinary medicine.  With a capsule endoscope there is no need for all of that equipment and medication.  The patient simply swallows the capsule and it transmits images wirelessly.  This is an unprecedented kind of diagnostic instrument, and opens so many new options for diagnosing and treating diseases!

Here are some examples of what can be seen.

Obviously this is pretty new and so far only found in the hands of specialists.  With time I would expect the costs to come down and start to be reasonable for general practitioners to purchase and use.  When that happens we could make so many more diagnoses than is currently possible.

I'd be interested in hearing from any clients or veterinarians who have personal experience with capsule endoscopy.  I'm certainly going to be following this imaging modality with interest.