|This is what the crazed, serial killer
said on the phone to actress Drew Barry Moore in the Hollywood
horror flick, Scream, starring Neve Campell, and Courtney and
In a less suspenseful, and far less painful way, patients and
their doctor’s can now get an exact image of their insides,
thanks to a new, tiny, technological innovation called the “Pillcam
The Pillcam is a tiny tablet sized, camera-containing, pill specifically
designed to view the inner lining of the esophagus. Before taking
the pill, the patient must be sure not to eat anything two hours
prior to the procedure. The patient swallows the pill lying down
and is then raised in a series of inclinations over a total of
The “bite-sized” camera travels down 21 feet of smaller
intestine, between the stomach and colon, snapping about 2,600
pictures (about 14 frames per second). The video capsule is equipped
with two miniature color video cameras (one on each end), a battery,
and a flashing light source.
The data is then transferred from a recorder belt, which is attached
to the patient, to the RAPID Workstation (a computer and monitor
used for viewing, editing, archiving, and e-mailing video images
that also saves individual images and short video clips). The
doctor then reviews the video and makes a definitive diagnosis.
The total procedure takes about 20 minutes in the doctor’s
office, clinic, or hospital.
Melinda Ching, a 42-year-old attorney and married mother of two,
was one of the first patients in Hawai‘i to try the new
procedure. Ching said she suffered thru two years of excruciating
abdominal pain before using the Pillcam.
They (the doctors) still hadn’t been able to find out why
I was having this pain,” she said. “They thought
I was just reacting to the stress in my life.”
After the procedure, doctors were able to successfully detect
and diagnose the cause of Ching’s symptoms: the flaring
up of her lymph nodes, which contained cancerous particles. “It
would not have been found any other way,” said Dr. Jack
DiPalma, an expert on the diagnostic procedure and director of
gastroenterology at the University of South Alabama.
After undergoing a biopsy and several chemotherapy treatments
over the course of four months, Ching said, she was pain-and
DiPalma said that the PillCam may even be able to replace more
invasive diagnostic tests needed for people who suffer from digestive
problems such as bleeding, gall stones, polyps, Crohn’s
disease and some forms of cancer.
Inscope, manufacturers of the Pillcam ESO, said it was primarily
designed to help in the diagnosis of people suffering from Barrett’s
esophagus (a pre-cancerous condition as a result of abnormal
cell growth in the lower esophagus), and esophagitis (inflammation
of the lining of the esophagus) often caused by Gastro-esphageol
Reflux Disease (GERD).
The video capsule evolved from an Israeli-based missile technology
that transmits images back to a base station before a missile
hits a target, DiPalma said. He added that the procedure is covered
by most health insurance policies, including Medicare, and can
cost between $800 and $1,800. The PillCam alone costs about $450.
After dropping into the stomach, the pill is later excreted naturally
and is never reused.
Ching said people have asked her what happened to the camera. “I
didn’t go looking for it,” she said. “I’m
assuming everything came out all right.”
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