Today, both the San Jose Mercury News and the Washington Post are talking about the M2A disposable diagnostic capsule, a camera small enough that you can swallow it.
At one inch long and a third of an inch across -- not much bigger than a jumbo-sized multivitamin -- it's small enough to be swallowed. But unlike other pills, this one from the publicly traded Israeli company Given Imaging has a flash camera inside.
Propelled along like an undigested morsel of food, the Given capsule takes two flash pictures a second for up to eight hours. That's more than 50,000 digitalized color images sent from a miniature transmitter to probes on the patient's body and recorded on a belt-mounted receiver before the disposable pill passes harmlessly out of the intestine.
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year, it's now been used to search the small intestines of 21,000 patients worldwide -- half in the United States.
The company charges $450 for each disposable pill-camera and $24,000 for the dedicated system that a clinic or doctor's office must have to view and interpret the images. The procedure costs about $1,000 per exam.
In "Patients Find Technology Easy to Swallow," The Washington Post gives additional details.
The M2A was approved by the FDA last year to give doctors their first good way to explore a part of the body that had been virtually inaccessible -- the small intestine. The 22-foot-long passageway, coiled tightly with deep recesses, can hide the sources of a host of unexplained abdominal ailments, such as bleeding, Crohn's disease and irritable bowel disease.
To use the M2A -- short for "mouth to anus" -- system, patients must eat nothing after midnight the morning of the test and wear a recorder about the size of a Walkman on a belt for eight hours. The capsule snaps two pictures a second, and the recorder usually collects about 57,000 images through the sensors on the patient's abdomen as the "pill" moves painlessly through the body before being excreted and flushed down the toilet.
This is the end of 2002. So I wish all of you a Happy New Year.
Sources: Paul Jacobs, San Jose Mercury News, December 30, 2002; Rob Stein, The Washington Post, December 30, 2002
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