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  • Children's small intestines imaged with wireless capsule endoscopy

Jul 2007
Endoscopic procedures, which can help diagnose and treat problems in the gastrointestinal tract and surrounding areas, must be used with special care in children because general anesthesia is required. Alternatively, wireless capsule endoscopy is a minimally invasive imaging method in which the patient swallows a capsule containing a tiny camera that generates images of the small intestine. However, the technique has not been used much in small children because of potential problems with swallowing the capsule and because the FDA does not approve the procedure in children under the age of 10.

As presented in May at the Digestive Disease Week meeting in Washington, Dr. Annette Fritscher-Ravens from Homerton University Hospital in London and her colleagues tested the use of wireless capsule endoscopy in 56 children with ages ranging from 1.5 to 8 years who had suspected small-intestine problems.

The patients fasted for 12 hours and then received 11 × 26-mm capsules weighing less than 4 g and manufactured by Given Imaging of Yokneam, Israel. Twenty-three patients, who were all between 4 and 8 years old, were able to swallow the capsule. The other 33, who ranged from 1.5 to 7 years old, required endoscopic introduction of the capsule, which was placed in the duodenum.

Once inside the body, the capsule took two color images per second for about eight hours (the length of the capsule’s battery life), allowing it to travel through the intestines before natural excretion.

The wireless capsules provided quality images in all of the patients and helped reveal age-specific disorders. The symptoms they found included gastrointestinal bleeding in 23, Crohn’s disease in 15, abdominal pain in 10 and protein loss in eight.

The researchers believe that their results indicate that wireless capsule endoscopy is an effective and safe method for viewing the small intestine in young children.

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