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Thursday, July 28, 2005

New pills at cutting edge of medicine

examiner.com.au : New pills at cutting edge of medicine

The pill that Launceston General Hospital boss Geoff Lyons swallowed yesterday was far from bitter.

It was a tiny, magic camera pill that, from the moment it slid down the department of surgery business manager's throat, was taking photographs of what it was seeing inside Mr Lyons's body.

By the time the capsule had glided painlessly to the end of the surrogate patient's gastrointestinal tract, it had collected 50,000 images.

Yesterday's demonstration sounded a new era in exploratory medicine at Tasmania's public hospital.

The LGH is the first public hospital in the State to introduce the Israeli-developed camera pills, which cost about $900 each.

It has taken the LGH about $100,000 to set up the new procedure with about 100 patients a year expected to swallow the camera pills.

It is a simple process in which a patient takes the pill with a glass of water after strapping a data recorder around the waist that is hooked up by wires to the patient's chest.

The patient can go home or back to work for the next eight hours while the tiny, beeping camera inside takes a still shot every three seconds as it proceeds through the body.

The capsule unit is eventually excreted and the tiny images retrieved and transferred to a computer screen so that LGH specialists can read and diagnose from the images.

The pills are not reused.

Launceston gastroenterologist John Wettenhall said that the new pillcam would be particularly useful for detecting and diagnosing small bowel disorders.

He said that there was a group of patients, particularly older patients, with whom it was difficult to diagnose the cause of internal bleeding and who needed regular blood transfusions.

"It's dangerous to open them up without knowing what you are looking for - this could dramatically reduce frequent hospital admissions and exploratory surgery," Dr Wettenhall said.

"This is technology of the moment, it's cutting edge," he added.

Mr Lyons, the surrogate patient, reported no side effects.

The new camera pill will be used when other investigations have failed to determine the cause of symptoms.


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