If you have ever wondered what happens when you swallow a pill, you now have the opportunity to watch its course on video. The ‘Pillcam’ is a minute camera which has been fitted with a flashing LED light and is designed to highlight any abnormalities inside the body.
The camera is swallowed in the same fashion as a pill and uses the same route as food. It travels through the human body, taking 18 photographs per second.
This allows nurses and doctors to view the internal organs and detect problems that are often not found with external scans.
A consultant gastroenterologist, Dr Salil Singh, was responsible for the introduction of capsule endoscopy to the Royal Bolton Hospital. He said there is a massive amount that is not visible with a traditional endoscopy. He added that most people find this new method fascinating. Twenty years ago this was science fiction, but it has become reality.
Although body parts such as the large bowel, stomach and oesophagus can be scanned successfully with traditional equipment, other organs, such as the small bowel and intestines, are inaccessible with an endoscope, which is a small, flexible tube with a camera on its end. The small bowel measures between six and 26ft in length, it is placed in the centre of the digestive system and this makes it extremely difficult for medical staff to examine.
Once the Pillcam has been swallowed by the patient, it moves through the body within a few hours. The patient has to wear a belt to allow receipt and storage of the images.
Capsule endoscopy costs about £500 per treatment and is available at some UK hospitals, including Neath Port Talbot, Wythenshawe and Bolton.