Researchers have observed a pill-sized camera and a CT scan may prove to be the best way to detect problems of the small intestine. The newly approved camera capsule, also known as capsule endoscopy, gives doctors images of the small intestine never before available. A patient swallows the pill and, for eight hours, pictures are taken and transmitted to a sensor worn on the person's abdomen. The pictures can then be viewed to show lesions in areas that are not accessible by a colonoscopy or endoscopy.
This technology, while allowing for a great deal more diagnostic ability, has some downsides, according to Mayo Clinic's Amy Hara, M.D., who presented new research at this week's 88th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago. The biggest problem, says Dr. Hara, is that there is no good way to know precisely where the photo of the area of interest was taken. Doctors can only estimate based on the time the capsule was in the person's system.
Therefore, Dr. Hara suggests using a combination of imaging techniques to get the best results. In a recent study by Dr. Hara and colleagues, CT scan was used to look for areas of abnormalities in the small intestine. The findings were compared to those using a traditional barium test and the camera capsule. Results showed the CT found more abnormalities, especially vascular malformations and tumors, than the barium test but fewer than the capsule endoscopy.
Based on these results, Dr. Hara suggests the best treatment may be to first use the CE to look for abnormalities and get an approximation of location, then go to the CT for more precise locating of the lesion. CE is FDA approved and is covered by some insurance companies. The test costs around $2,500 including the capsule and time to read the results.