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Special report: The start of endoscopy's reign

by Diana Bradley, Staff Writer | March 16, 2012
From the March 2012 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

The tiny cameras of current capsule endoscopy technology only capture images at random intervals, rendering the technology ineffective in cancer screening. To confirm diagnosis, it is common for patients to require a second procedure. Although the procedure is considered low-risk, about one percent of the time, the capsule has a chance of becoming lodged in the digestive tract, which may require removal with a scope or through surgery. But aside from obstacles with capsule endoscopy technology, human error is also a major issue. In a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology in January, researchers found that doctors who read results from pill cameras often fail to catch abnormalities. Doctors in the study were only able to detect between 43 percent and 47 percent of abnormalities, when looking at images in three of the four most commonly used reading modes. With the fourth reading mode, doctors only detected 26 percent of abnormalities. Researchers recommended that to counteract this issue, a second doctor should look at capsule endoscopy images to help avoid misses.

Regardless of risks, the technology’s benefits to patients are considerable. As a non-invasive approach to diagnosing conditions in the small bowel and detecting small pathologies, the technology is also cost-effective, administered on an outpatient basis.

“As far as diagnostic equipment goes, I think pill cams are a big advancement,” says Chris Leman, senior vice president of refurb company, Scope Connection. “A pill can go through virtually the whole GI tract, providing images for diagnoses that were only accessible in the past through surgery.”

Major endoscopic capsule suppliers include Given Imaging – with its PillCam Capsule; and Olympus – who in September 2007, as part of the EnteroPro brand of products, launched the Endo Capsule for visualizing small bowel mucosa. Olympus’ product uses six LEDs, which offer automatic lighting, two images per second transmission and an eight-hour recording time.

“There is talk that they are working on pill cameras with therapeutic capabilities,” Leman says. “Maybe small biopsies and things like that.”

New techniques and technologies
There has been an increased development and interest in improving core imaging technologies through contrast enhancement, optical biopsy technologies and endoscopic ultrasound, explains Kurt Cannon, the vice president of sales and marketing for Fujifilm Medical Systems U.S.A. Inc.’s Endoscopy Division.

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