The Pillcam colonoscopy is good news for many patients and gastroenterologists everywhere.  You might have already heard of the Pillcam.  And you might have scoffed, thinking this technology was surely some kind of futuristic medical science fiction.  No, it exists, and it’s available now.

It is true that Pillcam is the common term for a tiny camera you can swallow like a big vitamin.  True to its name, it shoots pictures as it travels through your colon.  And it is also true you do not have to retrieve that camera after its journey.  It’s a disposable camera.  Therefore, your doctor can download images that previously were available only through an endoscope.

A Camera in a Pill for a Mini-Colonoscopy?

Furthermore, in the words of our own DDC Orlando, Dr. Sanjay Reddy, “This is a great diagnostic test.”  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that you might have made some false presumptions about this test.  “It is not typically a substitute for a regular full-fledged colonoscopy.  It is best done only after a colonoscopy or as a follow-up colonoscopy if you have a condition like Crohn’s Disease.”

Swallowing a Colonoscopy:

Pillcam is no more difficult to swallow than a bit vitamin.

New Vitamin Size Colon Test

Naturally, this type of test would be cherished by patients who dread the typical colonoscopy tests.  The prospect of swallowing a large capsule pill as opposed to taking a traditional colonoscopy sounds very enticing, indeed.  However, as we noted above, that is not really how doctors utilize this technology for several reasons:

1.      In the first place, according to Dr. Reddy at Digestive Disease Consultants, “The images of the Colon are sporadic and not continuous.  So you don’t get as much detail in the images as we usually like.”

2.      Secondly, as we have noted in previous blogs, the traditional colonoscopy now offers us more on-the-spot treatment options for removing polyps, ablation and stopping bleeding.  “With the pillcam technology, we still must go back into the colon to treat the problems we can see.  So, the patient will need to return for a traditional colonoscopy.”

The Pillcam and You:  A Little Backstory and A Little Prediction on Pillcams

Since it was first introduced, in 2000, capsule endoscopy or CE, has greatly advanced the diagnostics of both upper and lower gastrointestinal diseases and issues.  The amazing esophageal CE might be used to diagnose “esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus and varices.  But, reliability in identifying gastroduodenal pathology is unknown.  And it does not have biopsy capability.”

Pillcam of the future administering medication.

Artist rendering:  Someday a Pillcam might do more than record images. This one is injecting medicine. 

First introduced 13 years ago, this is still a relatively new medical test.  DDC anticipates many more studies to come from medical research scientists.  Eventually, we might have pillcams that can repair what they see and move about the digestive tract on their own power.

For some deep reading on this topic, we advise you to visit this reliable scholarly article.  In the years to come, research might reveal …” the possibility of controlling capsule movement and developing capsules which allow tissue sampling and the administration of therapy.”

Pillcams Bring New Hope for Better Testing in the Upper GI Track.

In 2008, medical scientists revealed the PillCam Eso 2.  They designed it specifically for improving diagnosis in the upper GI tract.

Although we will mention the small bowel Pillcam within this article also, we want to emphasize that we are pleased to be  currently enjoying successful results from the new member of the Pillcam team, the esophageal Pillcam.

Definitely an upgrade from the first model, and more specifically to needs in the upper digestive track, this pill capsule sports a camera at both ends.

This pillcam is also built for speed.  It provides images at a faster rate, 14 frames a second instead of 2.  Likewise, of course, it shows bi-directional images.  Thus the high-speed double camera overcomes the natural “rapid transit through the esophagus.”

Check Out the Pillcam 2:  Built for the Upper GI Track, Born to Explore the Esophagus

Experts tell us “PillCam Eso 2 has a reported sensitivity of up to 80% for diagnosing reflux esophagitis and up to 100% for Barrett’s esophagus compared to conventional endoscopy.”  Once again, it must be noted that although patients tolerate this procedure very well, the view is very limited.  Likewise, we can not obtain biopsies.

The Pillcam is here.

The Future of Medicine has arrived with Pillcam technology.  

Varices screening appears a more viable indication with a reported sensitivity of 83% in a recent meta-analysis compared to conventional endoscopy.  Detection of varices by CE (capsule  endoscopy)allows informed decisions regarding surveillance and primary bleeding prophylaxis to be made…” In addition, “esophageal CE has a favorable patient tolerability profile.

Preparation Still Required For Pillcam

However, patients must prepare for Pillcam endoscopy or colonoscopy with much the same amount of uncomfortable and meticulous bowel cleansing as a traditional procedure.

Although the Pillcam performs best in cases of small bowel trouble or bleeding that could not be located by traditional endoscopy, the esophageal capsule is growing in popularity, obviously for diagnosis issues in the esophagus.

The double camera and faster rate are not the only traits we like about the esophageal Pillcam2

Other fine features of this esophageal explorer include:

1.      It boasts a wider angle of view, empowering your Digestive Disease Consultants to see 169 degrees instead of 156.

2.      More advanced optics.  It has three lenses, in spite of its minuscule size.

3.      With its 30-minute battery life, the Pillcam 2 is well equipped to address the very short time of esophageal transit.

4.      It is also well suited to show off the secrets of a patient’s esophageal-gastric junction.  As we have noted in previous blogs, this is the epicenter of esophageal pathology.

5.      Like the Pillcam for the small bowel, it does its work, in this case for 30 minutes, shuts itself off and passes through the intestine through peristalsis.  Finally, it is naturally excreted.

Pillcams of every type are most significantly used at present in patients who tolerate endoscopy very poorly.  By this, we mean to indicate patients who have comorbidities that increase risks of repeated endoscopy.  As we stated at the beginning, this test is a very good one for follow-ups for patients who have the need for continued follow-up monitoring.

The Stars of the Pillcam System:  3 PARTS

Although the three available cameras small enough to swallow PillCam acquire all the star-power attention, there is much more to the Pillcam system.

Part 1.  The Recorder

From outside your body, the recorder can communicate ingeniously with the capsule you swallowed. As it travels through the digestive tract, the camera device explains its fantastic voyage to the recorder.  As the patient, you will wear this device in a little pouch that is attached to the sensor belt around your waist.  Your data is then downloaded from the Pillcam and your physician can review the results.

Part 2.  The Sensor Belt

This is a very high tech name for an easy-fastening belt you can wear around your waist.  As the name implies, there are sensors incorporated into the belt.  No adhesive or pinching attachments will impede you; these sensors are patient-friendly.

Part 3.  The Real-time Viewer

With its unique software installed, the compact, hand-held, real-time viewer is a convenient way for your doctor or technician to observe the Pillcam procedure.  The RAPID Real-time viewer works PillCam procedure.  The handheld device also contains the complete RAPID Reader software.

Now you know the whole truth about the entire system of the amazing Pilcam technology.  As these new technological developments continue to evolve, DDC Orlando will keep you informed about what is science, what is science fiction, and what the future holds in store for gastroenterology patients.