Camera pill can help in finding abnormalities in small intestines

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The diagnosis of small bowel disease appears to have taken a major step forward, thanks to an ingestible video camera that produces digital images of the small intestine.

According to the January issue of Radiology, a publication from the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), the greater potential may lie in the so-called camera pill's use in conjunction with CT.

Capsule endoscopy (CE) displays the small bowel's entire length - which can be as long as 25 feet -- as the intestine's involuntary muscles push the camera pill forward. CE can indicate the presence of abnormalities, but does not tell the location.

"As the camera tumbles through the intestine, you don't know exactly where the mass is located," said lead author Amy K. Hara, M.D., diagnostic radiologist at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. "CT, by contrast, provides a very good global view of the body, and specialized parameters can be employed to localize lesions."

CE also demonstrated more tumors, ulcers, vascular malformations and other small bowel abnormalities than ingested barium exams or CT, the current diagnostic standards for small intestine disorders.

The article notes that people with Crohn's disease would be among the beneficiaries of the technology. Crohn's disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease that occurs most often in the lower portion of the small intestine and is marked by diarrhea, abdominal pain and bleeding.