Lights, Camera, Intestines!

Scientists use magnetic paddle to guide tiny cameras in the gut

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Scientists in Germany have developed a more patient-friendly approach to inner-stomach imaging, using magnets to guide tiny swallowable cameras in patients with stomach cancer.

More than 21,000 men and women are estimated to be living with stomach cancer in the United States and every year, around half as many people will die from it. A recent study by researchers at the University of Hamburg in Germany has shown that magnetic maneuvering of an endoscopic capsule is safe and effective in creating images of the inner stomach lining.

Endoscopes are imaging devices used to see inside organs, usually with the use of a tube with a tiny camera and lighting device. Endoscopic capsules are tiny capsules that can be swallowed in order to provide images from inside the intestines and stomach.

The Hamburg experiment is the first of its kind to use the magnetic system in the stomach of patients. Magnets are also being used right now to help with pill absorption in the intestine. Data shows that stomach (gastric) cancer screening may have a positive effect on patient mortality. Upper endoscopy is a useful tool that finds changes in the lining of the stomach, but the process is very uncomfortable for most people.

Traditional methods involve the use of a gastroscope, attached to a long tube and inserted through the mouth, down the throat and into the intestine. However, the development of this easily maneuverable capsule may mean more patient compliance. The capsule takes images that are then sent to a computer for analysis by a doctor. Previously, capsule imaging has not been extremely effective, but this new magnetic system shows promise.

Doctors used the magnetic guidance method in patients and found that it was not only safe and provided less discomfort for patients, but it also produced detailed visuals of the stomach lining. This was achieved by using an external magnetic paddle to guide the swallowed capsule in the patient's stomach.

No dangerous side effects were encountered and the only problems the researchers experienced involved small amounts of fluid that obstructed the camera's view in a certain part of the stomach. Participants answered questionnaires following the procedure and the majority reported no complaints, making this a feasible screening option for gastric cancer patients.

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Review Date: 
January 19, 2011
Last Updated:
January 19, 2011