Colour pictures beamed from wireless capsule in gut

Colour pictures of NHS patients’ small intestines are being beamed live from a tiny capsule that works its way through a patient’s digestive system whilst the patient carries on with their normal activities.

The wireless capsule endoscopy technology is in contrast to the normal procedure for an investigation of the small intestine which involves an endoscope (a tube with a small light and camera being fed via the mouth into the patient’s digestive system by a doctor or nurse). With a normal endoscopy the patient requires light sedation. Twenty-four patients have now had the capsule investigation since September 2002.

The James Paget Hospital, Gorleston, and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, are now working with academics at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, in a research project into the colour images produced by the wireless capsules. The project is funded by the National Association for Colitis and Crohn’s Disease (NACC). The Norfolk research study is looking at how colour pictures might help diagnose Crohn’s disease, a common inflammatory small bowel disease.

The patient swallows the small capsule (11mm wide by 26mm long), which has a tiny colour camera and lights. The capsule beams pictures via radio waves twice a second to a small receiver worn by the patient. The patient is free to do whatever they like for the 6-8 hours it takes the capsule to work its way through the digestive system. The pictures are then downloaded from the receiver to a computer and can then be analysed by a doctor.

The James Paget, and Norfolk and Norwich University hospitals, are working with academics from the internationally renowned Colour Research Laboratory, headed by Professor Graham Finlayson in UEA’s School of Computing Sciences. The research team includes Dr Jeff Berens, UEA lecturer in colour graphics, who has recently finished a PhD on the subject, Professor Duncan Bell, consultant gastroenterologist at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, and consultant gastroenterologist Dr Crawford Jamieson.

Dr Jamieson said: “Each patient generally has around 40,000 images from an endoscopy and it can take several hours for doctors to view them. Our current study aims to help identify areas of internal bleeding or inflammation more easily. This would be of huge benefit to the many people who have Crohn’s disease.”

Dr Berens said: ”We are using advanced colour analysis techniques to help search the capsule images for patches of yellow in certain parts of the gut that could be an indication Crohn’s disease. Our goal is to reduce the amount of time that the consultant needs to spend viewing the capsule images, but automating some of the diagnosis.”

NACC Director Richard Driscoll: “NACC members work hard as volunteers raising funds for research and we are delighted to help such a practical and positive project as this. The imaging capsule is obviously very patient-friendly – it will save people having some investigations using x-rays and endoscopes. If these new techniques can be successfully developed to automate the viewing of all the images, then there will be a real time-saving benefit for the specialist doctors involved in treating people with Colitis and Crohn's. We eagerly await the outcome.”

More information about NACC from or 01727 830038.

Tuesday 8th of July 2003 08:00:42 AM