Healthcare Technology Featured Article

September 02, 2021

Traditional Endoscopy or Capsule Cams?

When Are Endoscopies Preferred To Capsule Endoscopies?

Gastroenterologists routinely perform an endoscopy or colonoscopy to visualize the digestive tract, including the small intestine, and the large intestine. An upper endoscopy is used to visually examine the upper part of your digestive tract. An endoscopic device includes a long tube with a camera on the end. The gastroenterologist (GI doctor) inserts the endoscopic device under anesthesia through the patient's throat, or the rectum depending on what part of the intestinal tract is being examined. Gastroenterologists are experts at diagnosing and treating diseases of the GI tract. Diseases, illnesses, and bleeding in the duodenum, stomach, and esophagus can be examined with an upper endoscopy. GI doctors will recommend these endoscopic procedures to ascertain what is causing pain, discomfort, or other symptoms being experienced by the patient.

More often than not, an upper endoscopy also collects tissue samples to test for cancer of the digestive system, anemia, inflammation, diarrhea, or bleeding. Various medical treatment options are also available as add-ons when an upper endoscopy is being conducted. These include cauterizing procedures for treating GI -related issues. If there are bleeding blood vessels, foreign objects blocking parts of the GI system, ulcers, or polyps, these can usually be identified and treated with an upper endoscopy. Narrow band imaging technology can also be paired with upper endoscopic devices to treat a variety of conditions.

Cutting-edge endoscopic devices

The quality of these medical imaging solutions is sacrosanct. A medical endoscope camera has a tiny diameter, and is used in minimally invasive procedures. One of the smallest such cameras in the world is barely 1.0 mm, with built-in illumination. As this type of innovative technology evolves, doctors and patients benefit immensely from these breakthrough developments, and their myriad applications. These micro devices are highly flexible, with micro lenses which can be attached to flexible endoscopes, steerable endoscopes, rigid endoscopes, or semi-flexible endoscopes.

 Overall, endoscopic procedures are really safe. Approximately 1:2500 – 1:11,000 diagnostic upper endoscopies result in tearing of the gastrointestinal tract. Patients are more at risk of tearing if they undergo procedures to expand their esophagus. Other potential risks include infection and bleeding, although the risk of infection is low and can usually be treated with a dose of antibiotics. Bleeding complications can arise on the rare occasion, and may require blood transfusions to resolve the issues. Depending on what procedures are performed during the endoscopy, results may be available immediately, or several days later (in the case of biopsies).

Patients can prepare for endoscopies by fasting for 8 hours prior to the procedure. This guarantees that the stomach will be empty. Any blood thinning medication, including aspirin must be stopped prior to the procedure, since these can increase the risks of bleeding and tearing when endoscopic procedures are performed. Patients are often awake during an upper endoscopy, with monitoring equipment assessing breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Anesthesia may be administered along with sedatives before the endoscopy begins.

When are pill cams used?

The veritable pill cam is otherwise known as capsule endoscopy. This procedure utilizes a micro-wireless camera which takes pictures of your GI tract as the pill makes its way through your digestive system. The micro camera fits snugly inside a pill-sized capsule which is administered in the doctor's office or hospital. The camera snaps thousands of images, and these are relayed to a recording device that is worn on a belt around your waist. The applications of capsule endoscopic methodology are wide-ranging, particularly when gastroenterologists need to see the insides of the patient's small intestine.

Specifically, pill cameras are recommended to diagnose various inflammatory bowel conditions like Crohn's disease, cancer, Celiac disease, and even screen for polyps. The pill cam can also determine the root cause of GI bleeding in the small intestine. Esophageal examinations are also possible with pill cams, since they can detect abnormally large veins with relative ease. In preparation for the capsule endoscopy, patients are required to fast for 12 hours, and to take laxatives to clear any food and fecal matter from the body. This will enhance the quality of the images, since there won't be any obstructions in the way.

The setup is performed in the doctor's office, and patients must wear specialized medical imaging equipment around the waist which records everything that is being transmitted via the pill cam. All of the data is sent to a recorder which then collates and saves all the images. Once you have swallowed the pill cam, you can continue about your day with no problems whatsoever. Naturally, strenuous activity should be avoided with this device so that you don't interfere with its functionality, or damage it. The procedure is complete after 8 hours, or once the pill cam has passed through your system.

Thanks to sophisticated software, the pill cam’s images are bundled together to create an A-Z full color passthrough tour of your GI tract. The doctor watches this video to detect any abnormalities within your digestive tract and mucosa. After the results have been received, they will be shared. Naturally pill cams cannot repair any bleeding, cannot take tissue samples, and cannot remove polyps. It is primarily an exploratory device that invariably warrants an endoscopy to treat, test, or remove problematic elements from the GI tract.

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