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In 2002, a technology was released that allowed physicians to see inside a patient’s small intestine by having them swallow a pill-sized camera. At the time, it had limitations – primarily, it couldn’t reach further into the digestive system to examine the colon, or large intestine. Now, physicians with the University of South Alabama Physicians Group can visualize the entire gastrointestinal tract using a new technology called PillCam COLON. USA is one of only 17 centers across the country that offers this technology.
“Thirteen years ago we introduced video capsule endoscopy for small bowel. Amid the enthusiasm, patients also wanted a video capsule to study the colon,” said Dr. Jack Di Palma, director of the University of South Alabama Digestive Health Center and professor of internal medicine at the USA College of Medicine. “Today we can offer that technology to patients.”
With PillCam COLON, developed by Given Imaging, physicians are able to visualize the colon to monitor and diagnose disorders of the gastrointestinal tract without sedation or invasive endoscopic procedures. The technology uses a tiny camera contained in a disposable capsule that naturally passes through the digestive system.
While colonoscopy is still the gold standard for colon cancer screening, Dr. Di Palma said the new technology can be used for patients who have had an incomplete colonoscopy or for those who cannot tolerate a colonoscopy for screening.
Undergoing a complete colon evaluation is extremely important for the detection of polyps, small clumps of cells that form in the lining of the colon that can become cancerous over time. The accuracy of PillCam COLON is comparable to other colonoscopy alternatives for detecting polyps.
Similar to the preparation for colonoscopy, doctors may recommend a clear liquid diet the day before the exam and laxatives the night before and morning of the exam. The technology works like this: first, sensors connected to a belt are attached to the chest and abdomen. The patient wears the belt while it captures images transmitted from the camera and stores them in a small computer. The computer stores the pill’s journey through the gut, snapping two pictures per second. Images are later downloaded and viewed on the physician’s desktop computer.
After the exam, a colonoscopy may be recommended to remove and treat any findings such as polyps, if present.
Currently, PillCam COLON is not covered by insurance and costs $1,750. For more information, call (251) 660-5555.
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