PillCam: Hampstead’s Royal Free Hospital pilots pill-sized bowel camera that ‘could make endoscopies a thing of the past’

PUBLISHED: 07:00 27 March 2019

The PillCam. Picture: Condor PR

The PillCam. Picture: Condor PR


A pill that takes photos inside patients’ bowels at the Royal Free to screen for cancer could make endoscopies a thing of the past, bosses say.

The “PillCam” contains a camera at either end which takes a series of photos during its 26ft journey through the stomach and intestines to identify any abnormalities.

Once the PillCam is swallowed, the images taken by the pill are sent via Bluetooth to a small recording device fitted to the patient.

Doctors then download the footage from the recording device and determine the results of the screening.

The innovative digital capsule is designed to improve patient comfort and the efficiency of bowel screening.

It is excreted eight hours after being ingested in the same way as any other pill or food.

Professor of gastroenterology at the Royal Free Hospital, Prof Owen Epstein, said: “The PillCam is a great example of digital development in the health industry.

“Patients need to be able to make informed decision for themselves.

“It’s like going from the old, analogue phones with copper wires to the wireless mobiles we have today. It’s all part of the digital revolution.

“In five to 10 years these new forms of technology may disrupt the current status quo. We may no longer see procedures such as endoscopy then.”

The PillCam was first adopted at the Royal Free in 2015 with 100 patients a year now benefiting from its use.

The capsule is administered to Royal Free patients who have been referred by their GPs for change in bowel habits such as the passing of blood.

The technology has received huge support from charity “Bottoms Up” – set up in 2002 – which provides funds and facilities to aid bowel cancer research at the Royal Free.

Bowel cancer awareness month will be marked during April.

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