x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Sugar-coated camera to screen for bowel diseases

A new method of screening for disease is launched using a pill-size camera that takes photographs as it travels through the body.

ABU DHABI // A new method of screening for disease has been launched using a pill-size camera that takes photographs as it travels through the body. Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), the largest public hospital in Abu Dhabi city, has carried out two of the endoscopic procedures so far and is the only hospital in the region to offer the full range of capsule endoscopy services. The method uses a small, wireless camera that is sugar-coated and swallowed by the patient. It can take pictures of parts of the body such as the small intestine and small bowel, which are not easily reached using the traditional method, where a camera is attached to a long, flexible tube.

The capsule procedure is much less invasive, and may be preferable to some patients when screening for things such as colon cancer, doctors said. Dr Nigel Umar Beejay, who pioneered the procedure at SKMC and is lead consultant of capsule endoscopy, was involved in the first public demonstration of the capsule in Canada in 2001. "Although the capsules have been available in other parts of the world, their use in the Middle East has been limited," he said. "This was due to availability and the skills needed to use this."

The camera transmits around 70,000 images to an antenna attached underneath the patient's clothing. Doctors scrutinise the photos in the diagnosis and evaluation of problems such as gastrointestinal bleeding. Each year the hospital performs around 1,500 endoscopies. Doctors estimate that around five per cent of these cases would make ideal candidates for the new capsule camera. The traditional procedure is used to treat as well as diagnose.

"It is not as disruptive; patients can go to work or go shopping, as normal," Dr Beejay said. "In a culture of modesty, many people will be happier to take a tablet rather than have a camera on a tube inserted." munderwood@thenational.ae