The PillCam helps doctors take a closer look inside their patient's body during an endoscopy. (Photo: Rene Walter/Flickr)

Pill-sized camera takes a journey through the body

Doctors have been using this revolutionary invention to examine patients since 2001.

Imagine you’re on the Magic School Bus and Ms. Frizzle as your trusty guide helps you shrink down to vitamin-size so you can take a fantastical journey through your buddy’s body.

Thanks to Given Imaging, an Israeli medical technology company, this notion isn’t completely far-fetched. Though there’s no bright yellow bus or quirky, curly-headed teacher involved, now there’s a camera in pill form you can swallow to give physicians a closer look inside you.

PillCam, a swallowable camera. PillCam, a camera in pill form. (Photo: David Yeo T.B./Flickr)

The first version of the “PillCam” was developed in Israel in 2001 as a non-invasive, painless way for doctors to visualize the small bowel and diagnose gastrointestinal irregularities such as iron deficiency anemia and Crohn’s disease. Since the success of PillCam SB, Given Imaging has expanded its product line to PillCams capable of examining the esophagus and colon.

womanholdingpill.jpg A woman holds a PillCam. (Photo: PillCam)

A traditional endoscopy involves inserting a rigid tube inside your body – this requires the patient to be sedated, something many people are wary of, and there’s a risk that the device could tear the stomach and esophageal lining. The PillCam doesn’t pose these dangers or discomfort.

“With more than 2 million procedures conducted since the first generation of the product was introduced, PillCam SB has had a significant impact on patient care in the U.S. and across the globe," said Homi Shamir, CEO and President of Given Imaging.

The PillCam’s precise image capturing helps doctors to clearly detect abnormalities and thereby make more accurate diagnoses. Sixty-two percent of patients with Crohn’s disease had their therapy changed after they used the PillCam as opposed to a more standard endoscopy.

The PillCam takes 30 minutes to travel through your esophagus, while it sends images to a data recorder you wear on your waist. During the procedure you can freely move around. Afterwards your MD will view the images on a video monitor – and together you’ll take your own, private ride on Body Wars, minus the seat simulators and sound effects (though those could probably be arranged if you ask your doctor nicely).

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Pill-sized camera takes a journey through the body
It's a pill-sized camera you can swallow. Sit back and enjoy the ride.