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Vital Signs

Fall 2004

“Pill Camera” Locates Hard-to-Detect Small-Bowel Bleeding

“Open your mouth, say ‘ahh’, and now swallow this camera.” Your doctor may not be joking. UCLA digestive diseases physicians are among the first in the nation to include wireless endoscopic technology to locate hard-to-detect anomalies of the small bowel.

Capsule endoscopy—or camera in a pill—enables physicians to image and examine the entire human small intestine, approximately 21 feet, without the need for general anesthesia or surgery. “This technology appears to significantly improve the chances of accurately diagnosing previously difficult- to-detect disorders of the small bowel, including ulceration of the jejunum and ileum, Crohn’s disease, small tumors, and vascular ectasias,” says Rome Jutabha, M.D., director of the UCLA Center for Small Bowel Diseases.

“Unfortunately, patients with gastrointestinal strictures or narrowings are not good candidates for this procedure due to the risk of obstruction.”

Capsule endoscopy consists of a disposable video camera encapsulated into a pill-like form that is swallowed with water. The wireless camera takes thousands of high-quality digital images within the body as it passes through the entire length of the small intestine. These images are transmitted to a data recorder worn like a belt by the patient while going about his or her day as usual. After eight hours, the data recorder is returned to the physician for processing and analysis. The digital data can be easily archived or integrated into reports and e-mailed either as individual frames or short videos.

“Not only can diagnoses be made for certain conditions routinely missed by other tests, but disorders can be detected at an earlier stage, enabling treatment before complications develop,” observes Dr. Jutabha.

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