Section: News

Small technology makes big waves at St. Joseph Hospital

When it comes to new medical technology, bigger is not always better. In fact, at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, a new device about the size of a vitamin is making big waves in the world of endoscopy.

The Pill Cam: a non-invasive way of imaging the GI tractIt’s called capsule endoscopy. Whereas conventional endoscopy is typically done using a long flexible tube with a camera lens attached at the end, capsule endoscopy involves a tiny pill-like device likened to a large vitamin that, when ingested, travels down a patient’s digestive tract and begins taking photos. The capsule is disposable and contains a miniature video camera that takes high quality images of the digestive tract, allowing physicians to diagnose gastrointestinal disorders.

Depending on the capsule, anywhere from two to 14 images per second are transmitted, resulting in up to 50,000 pictures taken on its eight-hour journey through the patient’s system. The photos provide physicians with direct visualization of areas like the esophagus, small intestine and colon, which helps them diagnose and evaluate certain digestive disorders, including gastrointestinal bleeding, ulcerations, lesions, Crohn’s disease, small bowel tumors and more.

To date, more than 500,000 patients worldwide are benefiting from capsule technology, including many Humboldt County residents. St. Joseph Hospital introduced the technology in 2005 and so far, physicians are pleased with the results.

"Capsule endoscopy has allowed us to more accurately detect and diagnose small bowel and esophageal disorders in our patients," said Dr. Kusum Stokes. "It’s a great alternative to conventional endoscopic and radiologic procedures and is convenient for patients."

Instead of undergoing surgery or a traditional esophageal endoscopy, patients simply swallow the capsule with a glass of water and strap a small data recording device onto their belt. Stokes, who specializes in endoscopic procedures, said patients can go about their normal daily activities, including eating and exercising, while the capsule does its job.

For more information about Endoscopy Services at St. Joseph Hospital, click here or call 707-445-8121. Dr. Kusum Stokes is a physician in Eureka and can be reached at 707-443-4869.

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