Posted on 17 August 2010.
One of the most challenging diagnostic problems in digestive medicine is finding the source of obscure or hidden bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.
Patients with obscure or hidden bleeding usually have unexplained anemia (red blood cell deficiency), a low blood count, or may have blackened stools.
When traditional imaging studies fail to reveal the source of the bleeding, another high-tech imaging tool, called PillCam, can provide detailed images of the small intestine — an area that’s difficult to reach with traditional endoscopy procedures.
PillCam, or video capsule endoscopy, is a procedure that uses a tiny wireless camera to take pictures of the insides of your digestive tract. The camera is housed in a vitamin-sized capsule that you swallow. As the capsule travels through your digestive system, the camera takes thousands of pictures that are transmitted to a recorder you wear on a belt around your waist.
“In the past, finding the source of bleeding often required surgery,” said Thomas A. Judge, MD, gastroenterologist at the Cooper Digestive Health Institute. “Now the patient comes into the office in the morning, swallows a dime-sized capsule, is attached to external monitoring equipment, and is out and about for the day. The patient returns in approximately eight hours and the equipment is collected. It really couldn’t be simpler.”
The images then are downloaded and carefully reviewed by the gastroenterologist. If a problem is detected and the source of the bleeding is identified, follow-up procedures and treatments can be performed.
In difficult diagnostic cases, video capsule endoscopy may be able to reveal small ulcers or other abnormalities. The procedure has been particularly helpful in diagnosis with patients who suffer from Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory disease of the small intestine.
“Gastrointestinal bleeding is a symptom rather than a disease and can occur anywhere within the digestive system,” Dr. Judge said. “The PillCam is a valuable tool for diagnosing problems, and Cooper is one of the only centers in the region with the experience and expertise to provide the technology, and to use it effectively.”
For more information about video capsule endoscopy or other programs and services available at the state-of-the-art Cooper Digestive Health Institute, located in Mount Laurel, N.J., call 856.642.2133.