(Image courtesy of the University of Washington)
Lights, Camera - Swallow?
Well, researchers at the University of Washington have developed a sophisticated camera for detecting esophageal cancer. The camera, so small in fits inside a standard pill capsule, is swallowed by the patient. It then takes a series of rapid-fire images as it passes through the esophagus. While not the first pill-like imaging device, it's by far the smallest. And, the least expensive.
"Our technology is completely different from what's available now. This could be the foundation for the future of endoscopy," said lead author Eric Seibel, a University of Washington research associate professor of mechanical engineering.
Most diagnostic procedures utilize a traditional endoscope. This is a long, flexible tube, equipped with a camera, which is passed down the patient's throat. The procedure is highly accurate, and the image quality is terrific. But, because patients must be sedated, it's also quite expensive.
The new device is so small it requires no sedation. As a result, the cost of the procedure is affordable, even when utilized on a wide scale basis. And, the procedure is quite simple.
"The procedure is so easy I could imagine it being done in a shopping mall," Seibel said.
The new device also offers the advantage of second looks. Because the device is tethered to the diagnostic equipment by a thin cord, the physician can move the camera up and down over areas of interest. Sound a bit uncomfortable? Well, Seibel wanted to find out for himself. After volunteering to be the first human test subject, he reported the procedure was no worse than swallowing a normal pill.
The research team hopes to make the device available to the general public in the not too distant future. Until then, you may want to stay current with your teeth cleaning, so you'll be ready for your medical imaging debut.To read more about the research, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about esophageal cancer, see this from the Mayo Clinic.