Nation & World News

The View From Down There: FDA Approves Pill Cam For Colon Exams

By Bill Chappell on February 4th, 2014

Patients who undergo colon screenings might breathe a little easier now that U.S. regulators have approved a pill containing two cameras. The PillCam Colon is minimally invasive and runs on batteries, its maker says. And as you might imagine, it’s disposable.

The PillCam is made by Given Imaging, which posted a YouTube video of the device’s intestinal trip, titled “Journey of the Colon.” That could be because titles such as Fantastic Voyage (1966) and Innerspace (1987) were already taken.

Despite its similarities to science fiction, the capsule costs $500 — a fraction of the several thousands patients pay for a colonoscopy, according to the AP.

As NPR’s Louise Schiavone reports for our Newscast unit, the pill cam “would be used initially by patients who cannot withstand a colonoscopy.” More from Louise:

“The Food and Drug Administration has given the green light to a product called PillCam Colon. It’s a very small, battery-powered camera in the shell of a pill and would take the place of a colonoscopy.

“A patient using this method of screening for early signs of colon cancer would swallow the pill. It would then take high-speed photos of the intestinal tract over the course of eight hours.

“A recording device worn around the patient’s waist captures images transmitted by the tiny pill moving through the intestine. The cost of the pill is significantly lower than a traditional exam.”

We’re not sure if this option would be available on the colon model, but other pill cams from Given Imaging offer the ability to see the capsule’s trip in real time.

More details from the company, which has its headquarters in Israel:

“The PillCam COLON video capsule is equipped with two miniature color video cameras (one on each end), a battery and an LED light source; it measures 12 mm X 33 mm. PillCam COLON is designed to be ingested by the patient and transmits 4 or 35 frames per second for approximately 10 hours.”

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