PillCam being used to see inside digestive tract - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

PillCam being used to see inside digestive tract

Chances are a doctor has prescribed you a pill before to help alleviate a medical issue. Now, there is a different kind of "pill" being used at a local hospital.  It is a tiny pill camera that can help find what is ailing you.

Michael Richard of DeRidder has one word to describe how he feels now - knowing there is not a hidden health problem in his digestive tract.  "Relieved!" he said.

This 70-year-old has already had his share of medical battles, from diabetes to lung cancer. When he came to Lake Charles Memorial Hospital's Digestive Health Center, he was not sure what to expect.  "I was having dark stools and there was blood in them," he said, "so the doctor wanted to find out what was causing it."

Richard had already had a colonoscopy and a standard endoscopy, but gastroenterologist Dr. Frank Marrero says those tools are limited in seeing the entire gut.  "That leaves a very long piece of bowel in the middle that we can't really reach with our current technology," he said.

But a new technology called the "PillCam" can give physicians a real time look inside the small bowel that they could not see before.  "The patient can swallow the PillCam and it records over eight hours and we can actually see what's in the small bowel," said Dr. Marrero.

Images are taken from a receiver the patient wears around his or her waist for eight hours, then downloaded to the computer where they are scanned by a medical team for abnormalities.  "You can literally watch it float through the small bowel," said Dr. Marrero.

Dr. Marrero says small, surface lesions, even small tumors can be picked up through these images that might have been missed before.  "This has added a lot of capability to our ability to diagnose patients, especially with things that aren't so obvious through our previous, standard techniques," he said.

Richard says he believes this new PillCam technology could have potentially detected his deceased wife's cancer, had it been around ten years ago.  "My wife had colon cancer," said Richard, "if they had had this along before that, they might have been able to save her...and anyone else with that problem too."

That is the purpose Richard hopes it serves today: technology that could save lives.

The PillCam is especially useful in targeting lesions, small bowel cancers, Crohn's Disease and Celiac Disease.  Dr. Marrero says the future of the PillCam could be developing a camera that is steerable and could possibly even provide samples from inside the digestive tract.

Since its inception at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital approximately one year ago, 100 patients have used the PillCam.

There is no retrieval process for the PillCam after it exits the body.  All of the images are on the retrieval device that is on the patient's waist.

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