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Doctors Get The Inside Picture With Wireless 'Pill' Technology

Aired May 24, 2000 - 2:25 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Here's the kind of story that might persuade some folks that they've lived to see the future. It's a medical story about a tiny camera enclosed in a capsule that someday you yourself might swallow.

We get the picture from medical correspondent Steve Salvatore.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. STEVE SALVATORE, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the movie "Fantastic Voyage," humans were miniaturized and transported inside a human body.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FANTASTIC VOYAGE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We can transfer to the inner ear...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes, sir:

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: ... and go by way of the endolymphatic duct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SALVATORE: That was science fiction, but this is science fact: a tiny capsule about the size of a dime that contains a camera and a light source and a transmitter that can take pictures from inside the body.

DR. PAUL SWAIN, GIVEN IMAGING, INC.: We get pictures of the small bowel, and you get some wonderful images as it moves through the small bowel, which opens and closes and squeezes down. And so you can see inside there.

SALVATORE: Here's how it works: A patient swallows the capsule just like any other pill. The miniature camera then travels through the body naturally, the way food does, taking pictures along the way. Outside the body on the abdomen is a series of antennas that receive signals from the capsule to a wearable recorder, which later downloads the images to a computer -- images of the small intestine that, until now, were never directly seen by doctors.

SWAIN: We can really only reach possibly the first third of the small bowel with conventional endoscopes, so there's a big area which accounts for quite a large distance of bowel, typically perhaps about two meters, that we really can't examine inside the body.

SALVATORE: The idea of wireless "pill" technology was first developed in the 1950s. On his recent trip into space, Senator John Glenn swallowed a similar device to measure his core body temperature. But experts say adding a camera is a major benefit.

DR. THOMAS ULLMAN, MT. SINAI MEDICAL CENTER: If we're talking just about small bowel or small intestine, certainly patients with obscure bleeding sources would benefit. And patients, potentially, with inflammatory bowel disorders such as Crohn's disease would benefit.

SALVATORE: The capsule is excreted naturally and is completely disposable, with a one-time use for each patient. Although rare, the main safety concern is blockage.

SWAINE: There is a small risk that it might get stuck in the bowel if a patient had a stricture, say, or had had an operation which would cause narrowing in the gut.

SALVATORE (on camera): The wireless endoscopy capsule is not yet available for general use. More studies are needed to determine its safety and effectiveness. The company is in the process of applying for FDA approval.

Dr. Steve Salvatore, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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