A kinder, gentler approach to one of the most dreaded exams in medicine is on the way. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved a bite-size camera to help screen patients who have difficulties with colonoscopies.
The PillCam Colon is minimally invasive and runs on batteries, its maker, Given Imaging, says. And as you might imagine, it’s disposable. You can watch a YouTube video by the manufacturer titled, “Journey of the Colon.”
The ingestible pill camera is designed to help doctors spot polyps and other early signs of colon cancer. The FDA has initially cleared the device for patients who have experienced an “incomplete” colonoscopy procedure, which involves probing the large intestine with a tiny camera embedded in a four-foot long, flexible tube. Given Imaging estimates 750,000 U.S. patients are not able to complete the procedure each year, due to anatomy issues, previous surgery or various colon diseases.
The Israeli company’s technology, developed from missile defense systems, uses a battery-powered camera to take high-speed photos as it slowly winds its way through the intestinal tract over the course of eight hours. The images are transmitted to a recording device worn around the patient’s waist and later reviewed by a doctor.
While the wireless, image-beaming system may sound like an expensive piece of science fiction; the pill cost just a fraction of the price ($500) that some patients pay out of pocket for a colonoscopy, and is obviously a less intrusive and dare we say, more pleasant experience.
Pillcam Colon was previously approved in 80 other countries, including Japan, Europe and Latin America.