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Gastroenterology offers PillCam

PillCam: 20 Years of Capsule Endoscopy Innovation

In the US, millions of people suffer from various disorders of the small intestine, which include gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding, Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease and small bowel cancers. 

Hattiesburg Clinic Gastroenterology offers a capsule endoscopy (PillCam™), a revolutionary technology designed to examine and diagnose diseases of the small intestine. PillCam is an ingestible capsule equipped with a tiny, wireless camera and light source, which allows gastroenterologists to get a close-up look of the small intestine. 

After swallowing the capsule, which is about the size of a fish oil pill, the PillCam travels through the digestive tract, snapping roughly 50,000 images (two to six frames per second) throughout the procedure. The photos are stored in a data recorder that patients carry around their waist. The images are later downloaded to a computer for the physician to evaluate and make a proper diagnosis. 

“PillCam is designed to show the 12 to 15 feet of the small intestine that we are unable to reach with a regular scope,” said Hattiesburg Clinic gastroenterologist Gregory R. Owens, MD. “Radiology methods, like the small bowel follow-through, are not as sensitive at picking up things like bleeding, so the capsule really bridged that gap between the upper and the lower part of the small intestine.”

Gastroenterologists will recommend a capsule endoscopy procedure primarily to find the cause of obscure GI bleeding or to diagnose inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease. Doctors also utilize the PillCam technology to detect causes of iron deficiency anemia, which can be due to microscopic bleeding and ulcers in the small intestine that may be a source of losing blood.  

“If a patient has intestinal bleeding and we have not found the source on an EGD or colonoscopy, we will frequently recommend a capsule endoscopy,” Dr. Owens said. “Or if they have undiagnosed abdominal pain and we believe there might be a small bowel tumor, Pillcam can show those as well.” 

Capsule endoscopy is safe and effective with minimal risks. There are rare cases when the pill has gotten lodged in the digestive tract, but research has shown it does not pose any serious health risks and can usually be removed by enteroscopy. Gastroenterologists consider patients who have had prior abdominal surgery or other conditions that cause narrowing of the small intestine before recommending a capsule endoscopy. 

The day before a capsule endoscopy procedure, patients are prescribed a clear liquid diet and are encouraged to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and clear the GI tract. Colon prep is not required for the PillCam capsule endoscopy. 

The capsule endoscopy procedure lasts approximately eight to nine hours. During that time, patients wear a Velcro sensor belt, similar to a waist trimmer belt, underneath their clothing, where the data recorder is also attached. Patients need to avoid strenuous activity while the capsule travels through the digestive tract. 

After eight hours, the equipment may be removed and then returned to your gastroenterologist’s office. The capsule should pass on its own naturally and may be safely flushed. While most patients pass it in 24 to 72 hours, it can sometimes take up to two weeks. Patients who experience abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting during or after the procedure should immediately contact their doctor’s office.

For more information about the PillCam capsule endoscopy or to schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist, contact Hattiesburg Clinic Gastroenterology at (601) 268-5680 or visit www.hattiesburgclinic.com/gastroenterology

About Hattiesburg Clinic Gastroenterology

The Gastroenterology department at Hattiesburg Clinic offers clinical services to evaluate diseases of the intestinal tract, liver and pancreas. Some of the conditions they treat include esophageal disease, peptic ulcer disease, gallbladder disease, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, hepatitis and cirrhosis. They use a combination of diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopic procedures for treatment and screening. Gastroenterology is located at Hattiesburg Clinic’s main facility, located at 415 S. 28th Ave. in Hattiesburg. The contact information for the department is (601) 268-5680.

Tate Rutland

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