Remote-controlled capsule examines stomach

Researchers show their pill-size video capsule--which transmits images wirelessly in real time--is safe, well-tolerated, and feasible for gastric cancer screening.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
2 min read

Researchers in Germany are reporting two thumbs up for their first clinical trial testing a remote-controlled capsule endoscope in the stomachs of healthy volunteers.

To screen for gastric cancer, physicians often use conventional endoscopy (replete with tubing) to analyze changes in the lining of stomachs, but the uncomfortable procedure, which carries the risk of punctured organs and infection, can result in some patients opting not to have the exam done.

The ingestible capsule is 11x31 mm. GIE: Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Ingestible capsule endoscopies, with pill-sized video capsules, can record and transmit images in real time without a single incision point. The main issue is that the capsule isn't always pointed in the best direction for imaging, so the new work out of Germany uses magnetic maneuvering as a means of controlling the capsule and improving image results.

"An external handheld magnet was developed, allowing targeted investigation of all regions of the stomach," says lead author Jutta Keller of the University of Hamburg. "We found that the magnetic maneuvering of the capsule was safe and very well-tolerated, with excellent responsiveness of the capsule to movements of the outer magnet so that detailed visualization of the gastric mucosa could be achieved."

The magnetic maneuverable capsule includes magnetic disks inserted inside one of the capsule's domes and a single camera that operates at four frames per second. (An external magnet "paddle" includes one strong magnet.) The camera is activated by a radiofrequency switch and transmits images via sensors on the patient's skin to a data recorder with a real-time viewer. Images are then compiled into video after the examination.

Wireless, ingestible capsules are poised to revolutionize endoscopy. A wireless colon capsule has also been developed for screening purposes, although it has yet to gain FDA approval. And while the German clinical trial is small, the remote-controlled capsule looks promising, with 9 of the 10 healthy participants reporting no complaints and one only mild pressure.

The study appears in the January issue of GIE: Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.