Pill Form Colonoscopy Developed

Researchers have developed a pill form colonoscopy that gives gastroenterology patients more options in addition to traditional colonoscopies.  The new colonoscopy procedure could potentially make colonoscopies even less invasive for patients.

Colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure utilized by gastroenterologists to see what is inside the bowels, colon, and gastrointestinal tract.  The traditional colonoscopy procedure involves a very small fibre optic camera that is inserted into the anus using a flexible tube. Although most patients don’t find colonoscopies painful, this new procedure could make colonoscopies even more comfortable for patients. 

With the new pill form colonoscopy, the patient is made to ingest a capsule which goes down to the digestive tract and takes images of the intestinal lining.  At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, researchers are making a “swimming capsule” which combines both new and old approaches.  This will allow a gastroenterologist to perform colonoscopy with the easy manipulation of endoscopy and the ease of the pill. 

Nobuhiko Hata, associate professor of radiology, who is leading the research team, said that there is still a lot to do before the plastic pill can be used by patients.

This breakthrough is the best alternative to the pill endoscopy considering the potential discomfort of the older procedure. A greater number of patients could potentially be more receptive to have colonoscopies since this would involve swallowing a pill rather than the scooping procedures with its uncomfortable preparation and risks.

The current pill colonoscopy cannot detect cancer since it takes images at random. Unless the growth is large enough the chances of detection is slim.

Dr. Hata is looking into a capsule that can provide concurrent imagery.   This allow the gastroenterologist to spot polyps and tumors.  Another benefit that is being looked into is for the pod to bring drugs to a tumor or injury site, or to transmit laser pulsations, disintegrating a tumor within the digestive system. The team is still perfecting the control of the capsule while inside the gastrointestinal tract.