The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared for marketing a swallowable capsule containing a tiny camera that snaps pictures twice a second as it glides through the small intestine.
The product, dubbed the Given Diagnostic Imaging System, comes in capsule form and contains a camera, lights, transmitter and batteries and is believed to represent a technological advance in methods of examining the gastrointestinal tract.
The device, made by Israeli company Given Imaging Ltd is intended to visualise the inside of the small intestine to detect polyps, cancer, or causes of bleeding and anaemia.
Currently the standard method of detecting abnormalities in the intestines is through endoscopic examination in which doctors move a scope down into the small intestine via the mouth.
However, these scopes are unable to reach through all of the 20-foot-long small intestine, and provide only a partial view of that part of the bowel.
The camera capsule is designed to take photos of the entire small intestine, enabling doctors to see areas that the endoscope cannot reach.
The capsule has a clear end that allows the camera to view the lining of the small intestine.
The patient swallows the capsule, and the movement of the digestive tract propel it forward through the stomach, into the small intestine, through the large intestine, and then out in the stool.
The capsule transmits the images to a data recorder, which is worn on a belt around the patient’s waist. The physician then transfers the stored data to a computer for processing and analysis.
The battery has an expected life of eight hours, which is said to be long enough to photograph the small intestine, but not long enough to photograph the entire gastrointestinal tract.
The FDA cleared the device based on both animal and clinical studies of safety and effectiveness conducted by the manufacturer.