Recently, the U.S. FDA approved PillCam SB 3, an imaging capsule for endoscopy. PillCam SB 3 is swallowed by patients, and then it takes as many as 60,000 images before exiting the body. A sensor belt is strapped around a patient’s waist, with a data recorder in a pouch. This data recorder then stores all the images received by the sensors in real time.
Photo: Given Imaging Ltd.
The product is expected to be available in October and will mainly help people with small bowel abnormalities, such as Crohn’s disease. The images will help doctors track any irregularities or changes in a patient’s GI tract, including ulcers, bleeding, and lesions.
According to Given Imaging Ltd., the inventor of the capsule, PillCam SB 3 weighs less than four grams and is about the size of a vitamin. PillCam SB 3 is the third generation of PillCam SB, which has been on the market since 2001 and administered to over a million patients.This procedure is less invasive than a traditional endoscopy, which comprises a doctor inserting a flexible tube with a camera on the end into the anus (colonoscopy) or esophagus (upper endoscopy) while the patient is sedated.
There are several companies now producing imaging capsules for endoscopy. But which procedure is better: the traditional endoscopy or the capsule? Below is a breakdown of the two for you to compare, contrast, and decide for yourself.
Begin fasting around midnight before the day of the procedure. Certain medications may be restricted in the days prior.
After ingesting the capsule and having the data recorder and belt set up, you may return home or to work. The capsule passes through the body cavity within 24 to 72 hours. After the capsule is exerted, you must return the belt and data recorder to the doctor, where the doctor will download the data and provide a diagnosis within 20 to 25 minutes.
- Capsule retention, when the capsule stays in the digestive tract for more than two weeks
- Capsule aspiration, a rare but serious complication that involves the capsule going down the wrong pipe and into the airways instead of the esophagus
- Skin irritation, a low risk that results in mild redness and is treated topically
PillCam SB and other imaging capsules for endoscopy are already out there. But the question is whether your doctor uses this procedure and your insurance company covers it?
Yuval Yanai, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Given Imaging Ltd., says the PillCam SB is used by roughly 3,000 gastroenterologists and is available to about 220 million Americans by various health insurance providers. However, The Boston Globe reported that despite capsule endoscopy becoming a widespread practice, many insurance companies won’t cover it unless a traditional endoscopy fails, which contradicts the point of taking a capsule instead. Check with your insurance company on their reimbursement policy.