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HEALTH REPORT – New Pill Camera Examines Intestines - 2003-01-13

Broadcast: January 15, 2003

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Many millions of people around the world suffer from problems of the small intestine. Bleeding from abnormal growths and other disorders affect an estimated nineteen-million people in the United States alone. But the problems have been difficult to identify because it is hard for doctors to examine this organ. Now, however, a new device is giving doctors a better look at the small intestine.

An Israeli company developed the Given Diagnostic System. It examines the stomach and small intestine. The manufacturer says about eight-hundred medical centers around the world now have this equipment.

The patient swallows a small device called the M2A imaging capsule. It is about the size of a normal medicine pill. The device contains an extremely small, color video camera. It passes through the patient’s stomach and small intestine.

As it moves, the camera takes more than fifty-thousand pictures of these organs. A receiver around the patient’s abdomen records the images. The camera works for about six to eight hours. Then it passes naturally out of the body. Patients do not have to stay in a hospital during the examination. Later, the video images are downloaded into a computer so the doctor can examine them and find any problems.

Several experts have praised this new medical tool to examine patients. They say it shows the small intestine better than X-rays or a method called endoscopy (en-DOS-co-py). Endoscopy uses a long thin tube with a small camera on the end. Doctors place the tube down a patient’s throat all the way to the small intestine. The camera looks for growths or other problems. But endoscopes cannot reach all the way through the six meters of the small intestine. Endoscopy also requires medicine to ease pain or to put the patient to sleep. This examination must be done in a hospital.

Experts say the new M2A system does not cause the patient pain or bad side effects. However, the small camera can not take pictures of the whole large intestine. So it cannot replace an examination called colonoscopy. And, people who may have a blockage in their intestines cannot be tested with the new method.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.