Camera pill

There’s a pill you can swallow with a little camera inside. It’s great for identifying gastrointestinal damage, and usually comes out the other end in a day or two. Usually.

Capsule endoscope
Euchiasmus. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Endoscopy is a common part of modern medicine: send a camera down or up the appropriate opening, and see directly inside the human body. It’s pretty cool when you are (for example) looking at someone’s vocal cords in action – see the video below if you’re not squeamish.

Most endoscopes are still attached to somethng outside the body – a lead or cord. That’s fine if you’re looking at the throat or the large intestine,  but what about the small intestine? It’s so, well, small and curvy.

The answer is this: a pill that contains LED lighting, a tiny camera, and a transmitter. You swallow it and it broadcasts pictures of your guts back out to the doctor. Great for identifying gastrointestinal bleeding and the like. So far, so good.

Most people pass their camera pill within a couple of days. But about one and a half percent of the time it stays in there. Still broadcasting, still taking photos, but just hanging out in your intestines like a wee paparazzo.

Most of the time, surgeons will just cut it out right away. But in one case, the camera pill stayed inside someone for four and a half years! It didn’t bother them, apparently. You can read the full write-up in the links below.

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