If you're a fan of the television show House, you may have already heard of Israel-based Given Imaging's PillCam. However, Joshua Devine, a high school sophomore who lives near San Diego, became one of the first to actually swallow the 1-inch long, plastic capsule that contains a tiny wireless camera at Rady Children's Hospital.
PillCam is an alternative to endoscopy, which requires the insertion of a long tube into a patient, a procedure that often necessitates sedation. PillCam's camera takes some 60,000 photos as it makes its way down the esophagus, into the stomach and through the intestines over a span of about eight hours. The PillCam can help doctors diagnose small-intestine conditions, including Crohn's disease, celiac disease, tumors and ulcerative colitis in patients 10-years-old or older.
The PillCam has a special coating that makes it slippery when wet and a bit easier to swallow. Once ingested, a monitoring device around the patient's waist uses a low-powered radio frequency to receive the images from the capsule as it transmits.
Josh's doctor likes how the PillCam allows the patient to stay awake during the internal investigation because the time can serve as a learning process, explained Dr. Martin Stein, a pediatrics professor at Rady and the University of California San Diego.
"You're giving children a greater understanding so that they can be part of the healing process," Stein said.
Given Imaging worked with other technology providers in Israel including the country's military to create the PillCam, which costs about $500 and is one-time use only. According to Given insurance covers most of the cost for the device and procedure. The FDA approved the PillCam, which weighs less than 4 grams, in 2004.
More information about the PillCam from a Given Imaging press release last December: "Given Imaging markets a number of available capsules: the second-generation PillCam SB 2 video capsule to visualize the entire small intestine which is currently marketed in the United States and in more than 60 other countries; the second-generation PillCam ESO 2 video capsule to visualize the esophagus; the Agile(TM) patency capsule to determine the free passage of the PillCam capsule in the GI tract and the PillCam COLON video capsule to visualize the colon that has been cleared for marketing in the European Union. PillCam COLON has received a CE Mark, but is not cleared for marketing or available for commercial distribution in the USA. More than 820,000 sold allowing patients worldwide to benefit from the PillCam capsule endoscopy procedure."