Colonoscopy Beats Colon Pill Camera

Study: 'PillCam' Works, but Not as Well as Colonoscopy

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on July 15, 2009
From the WebMD Archives

July 15, 2009 -- A tiny video camera embedded in a pill can detect abnormal growths in the colon or rectum, but not as well as colonoscopy, a new study shows.

WebMD first covered that study in 2007, when preliminary results were in for the colon camera pill, called the PillCam Colon capsule endoscope.

Now, the final results are in. Those results, like the preliminary findings in 2007, show that the PillCam worked but colonoscopy was better.

The study included 320 adults who had either a history of colon disease or suspected colon disease. After bowel preparation, they took the PillCam, which is about 1.2 inches long and less than half an inch wide.

The PillCam passes through the digestive tract, and in all but five patients the PillCam's batteries lasted long enough for the journey.

Later, the patients underwent colonoscopy so that the researchers -- who included Andre Van Gossum, MD, of Erasme University Hospital in Brussels, Belgium -- could compare results from the PillCam vs. colonoscopy.

More successful bowel preparation, resulting in cleaner bowels, yielded the PillCam's best results. But colonoscopy still trumped the pill.

For instance, the PillCam found only 14 of 19 cancers detected by colonoscopy, according to the study, which appears in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Side effects were mild to moderate and were mainly related to bowel preparation, not to the PillCam or colonoscopy. Those problems -- which included abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and headache -- resolved within two days, the researchers report.

The study was funded by Given Imaging, an Israeli company that makes the PillCam.

In a Given Imaging news release emailed to WebMD, researcher Jacques Deviere, MD, of Erasme University Hospital in Brussels states that the study showed the PillCam Colon "is safe and can visualize the colon. We believe that with scheduled upgrades in capsule technology, more efficient colon preparation, and higher rates of adequate colon cleansing among patients, PillCam Colon could be a promising new tool to complement colonoscopy for detection of polyps and diagnosing colorectal cancer." Given Imaging also notes that using the PillCam doesn't require sedation or hospitalization.