New technology offers easier way to find gastrointestinal problems

STEUBENVILLE – Doctors and staff with the Trinity Endoscopy Center now have an easier way to determine the source of patients’ gastrointestinal problems thanks to the recently acquired SmartPill technology.

Dr. Basel Teramini and Dr. Himanshu Desai, both gastroenterologists at the center, said the device not only will make it easier for them to find the origin of such problems as nausea, indigestion, abdominal pain, bloating and chronic constipation.

It also will be easier for patients because they have the discomfort experienced by some, particularly those with back pain, when laying flat for traditional endoscopy procedures and it causes much less disruption to their daily routine.

Desai added the approach involves no exposure to radiation, noting the medical community is working at reducing radiation exposure in many treatments.

About the size of a vitamin, the SmartPill is consumed with a nutrition bar by a patient so it may naturally enter the gastrointestinal tract. There it relays patterns of contractions and the temperature and pH (acid) level of a given area to a wireless receiver worn on the patient’s belt over a period of about three days.

Teramini explained the temperature and pH level help to determine the source of gastrointestinal problems and the device records times when the patient is digesting food, having a bowel movement, sleeping or is awake.

He said delayed gastric emptying, functional constipation and small bowel motility are among conditions that can be studied closely with the SmartPill.

The device is produced by Given Imaging, an international organization with offices in Duluth, Ga.

Teramini said the patient must fast for eight hours before consuming the SmartPill and for six hours afterward but may perform most normal activities.

The capsule is released from the body through a bowel movement but the information it gathered can be downloaded from the receiver onto a computer.

Teramini believes data collected by the SmartPill is more accurate than with traditional endoscopic procedures. He added the procedure normally costs 20 percent to 30 percent less than such measures.

“This is another case where technology has made a big difference, not only in improving cost but also convenience,” he said.

Teramini said the new technology was approved for adults following a series of pilot studies started in 2010. He said he learned of it while attending an international conference held by four national medical associations.

“We’re always seeking new technology to improve our treatment and help our patients,” he said.

Teramini and Desai said they have used it successfully for about 60 cases in the last year.

He said the Trinity Endoscopy Center is the only local facility to offer the technology.

“We are ahead of the curve in cutting edge technology,” Teramini said.

Desai noted the center also recently acquired the ManoScan ESO esophageal manometry test, which can be used to help pinpoint the causes of gastric reflux, heartburn, difficulty swallowing and functional chest pain.

He said the addition of the SmartPill technology makes the center’s neurogastic radiology lab comprehensive, allowing the two gastroenterologists and the center’s staff of three nurse practitioners to treat a wide range of functional gastrointestinal disorders.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)