New pill camera provides little discomfort

University of Washington mechanical engineer Eric Seibel takes visitors on tour down his own throat. Unlike other pill cameras, this one is tethered, giving immediate control and a live picture. It is so small he can comfortably use it on himself without medication.

"I can talk. It just feels like I have some piece of spaghetti, cooked spaghetti, hanging down the back of my throat and it's not a big deal," says Seibel.

To get pictures like this today, patients are sedated because the tube down their throat is many times larger. However, this tether contains a single illumination optical fiber that is slightly wider than a human hair. The fiber optic camera is designed to search for damaged tissue in parts of your body where today's cameras cannot go.

"Our scope can go all the way down through the stomach and up to the pancreatic duct and look for signs of early cancer," says Siebel.

Gastroenterologists like Jason Dominitz see this as a way to screen people more easily for damage to the throat or stomach.

"It could potentially be performed by a health technician rather than a physician, where a physician would review the results," says Dominitz.

Seibel hopes to show the camera is safer, quicker and cheaper than current procedures. If he succeeds, doctors may eventually be seeing more of you than ever.

The camera uses a tiny laser that vibrates about 11,000 times a second, creating circles of light that are picked up by a sensor a pixel at a time and then reassembled into a complete image by the computer.

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