A tiny camera, encapsulated in a pill, is now being used in Forth Valley Royal Hospital to help detect signs of bowel disease.
Although the procedure is not suitable for every patient, it is being offered, where possible, as an alternative to a traditional colonoscopy.
The capsule, which is the size of a large vitamin pill, is swallowed by patients and takes the same journey through the gut as food. As it passes through the digestive system it captures thousands of images of the lining of the bowel to help identify any signs of disease such as cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.
These images are automatically transmitted to a recorder device worn on a belt around the patient’s waist which they return to the hospital within 24hrs so images can be downloaded to provide a swifter diagnosis. The single-use capsule passes through the patient’s bowel and is able to be flushed away.
The initiative is part of Scotland’s Colon Capsule Endoscopy Service (SCOTCAP) which aims to help detect bowel cancer earlier so that treatment can be provided as quickly as possible. The roll-out of the new service across Scotland has been accelerated in response to the Covid-19 pandemic which has reduced the number of colonoscopies which can be carried out each day due to extra cleaning of rooms between patients and the use of PPE.
Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer globally and has a very high incidence in Scotland. Around 70,000 people undergo colonoscopy treatment in Scotland each year.