Imagine this: swallowing a pill and less than a minutes later, your doctor can see if you have a life threatening illness.
The alternative: being sedated for 90 minutes, receiving slower results and inferior picture quality.
A new, pill-sized imaging system that provides doctors with a 3D view of the oesophagus has now been tested by good friends of ours at Harvard University, USA. It looks as if it is better than the current screening method – endoscopy. It is used to detect Barrett’s Oesophagus, which is caused by acid reflux and can lead to cancer of the oesophagus. The capsule contains optical frequency domain imaging technology – a small rapidly rotating laser that emits a beam of near-infrared light. The light that is reflected off of the oesophageal lining is recorded with special sensors in the device. Researchers were skeptical, considering the size of the device, and worried that it would miss important details in the oesophagus, but they were pleasantly surprised when they discovered the opposite. The detailed microscopic images shown in this pill-like camera were more advanced than even a high-resolution endoscopy.
The procedure: a small imaging device, no bigger than the size of a multivitamin tablet, can be swallowed with a glass of water and is controlled by the administrator by a very thin wire which is connected to a computer screen. The pill is naturally grasped by the muscles of the oesophagus and is pushed down to the stomach. Once in the stomach, the administrator can pull it back up. It is quick, pain-free, and is predicted to be cheaper then the current day endoscopy.
Since the only way to detect this specific disease currently is by doing an endoscopy, many people do not know that they have the condition, resulting in many too-late-to-treat cases. Hopefully, with this new technology, more people will have access to it for early screening and the occurrence of oesophageal cancer and Barrett’s oesophagus can be detected early or prevented altogether.
If you have feelings of discomfort from heartburn or acid reflex and are above the age of 45 consider seeking the advice of a professional.