Doctors at Northampton General Hospital are using a tiny camera inside a 'pill' to help diagnose bowel problems.
Patients swallow a capsule only slightly bigger than a regular pain relief tablet, which then sends back up to 50,000 images of internal organs rather than needing to go through invasive procedures.
Despite being only slightly larger than a regular pain relief capsule, this one has a camera chip, three lenses, an LED light, battery, and radio transmitter all crammed inside.
It stays inside the body for up to eight hours before being flushed away naturally.
Hospital chiefs say the 'Pillcam' procedure could reduce waiting lists for investigations which built up during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Patients have given it the thumbs up, too, with one describing it as 'quick and easy.'
Mr Kamran Malik, a consultant colorectal surgeon at NGH, said: “Essentially the capsule camera travels down into the intestines – filming all the way – and can help detect bleeding, bowel cancer and help diagnose other inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease.
“We use the photographs and footage taken by the capsule to determine things like whether a part of bowel is inflamed or whether it has a growth in it of any kind.
"This helps us to be more effective and targeted in our treatments which can range from using medication to surgery.”
Currently, NGH can offer colon capsule endoscopy to about six patients a week and in most cases it avoids the need for them to have a colonoscopy – a more invasive procedure.
Retired school teacher Linda Gilbert, 74, from Hollowell, had a colon capsule endoscopy at NGH the end of last year.
She said: “I had tests and they had shown a very small amount of blood in my stool. Originally I was going to have a full colonoscopy but then the hospital contacted me and discussed the capsule endoscope alternative.
“It was a quite quick and easy process. You swallow the capsule and wear a monitoring belt for a number of hours until you pass the capsule.
"Mine took about four hours and the nurse keeps in touch with you and checks you are okay during that time.
“Within a few days I got the results and a diagnosis of diverticulitis, a quite common problem. It was a great relief that it wasn’t cancer. I think this is an important new way of doing these tests and is very simple and straightforward and nothing to worry about.”