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Japan's Capsule Endoscopy System: Endo Capsule


Capsule Endoscopy / Overview
Imagine swallowing a capsule containing a tiny camera that would then take pictures for use in diagnostic imaging. This is a technology whereby the patient washes down a tiny capsule, no larger than an ordinary pill, with water, and the camera contained within that capsule then provides the clinician with images of the gastrointestinal tract. This method reduces the physical and mental stress on the patient, and also enables close-up observation of the small intestine, previously referred to as the “Dark Continent” due to the significant difficulties faced in gaining accurate imaging of the area through conventional methods.

Commercially Available Technology
Olympus Capsule Endoscopy System: Endo Capsule

The Olympus Endo Capsule measures 11 mm in external diameter and 26 mm in length. According to the manufacturer, the diameter of the small intestine is around 30 mm, and the dimensions of the Endo Capsule have been carefully chosen as optimal for this measurement. The camera is fixed to one end of the capsule.

The capsule is propelled to the gastrointestinal tract via peristaltic action, eliminating the need for a motor or similar drive source. It takes around eight hours from swallowing for the capsule to pass out of the small intestine, and the capacity (battery life) of the silver oxide button battery contained within the capsule has been adjusted to match this timescale. These silver oxide batteries have a higher energy density than ordinary batteries, reaching mA levels not achievable elsewhere, meaning that the batteries contained within these tiny capsules have been made to particular specifications.

Data is transmitted using wireless technology. Images taken by the camera are immediately and wirelessly transmitted to an antenna unit attached to the patient’s body, and are captured and stored by a receiving device attached to the antenna unit. All capsule endoscopes are able to take two images per second. The total capacity of imaging data taken by a capsule per person (per endoscopy) can reach several gigabytes of data.

The camera uses a charge-coupled device (CCD) (Table 2). In order to take clear images of the gastrointestinal tract, which is dark, an LED flashes during operation, acting as a light source for the camera. In addition, the camera contains an automatic light control function. This adjusts CCD gain according to the level of light in the gastrointestinal tract. The CCD monitors surrounding light levels, and automatically makes control adjustments without external intervention in order to take the best possible images in real time. This means that images taken by capsule endoscopes are bright, and compare favorably with the image quality of standard endoscopies.

The Olympus Endo Capsule was launched on the European market in October 2005, and in the United States in October 2007. Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare gave production and sales approval for the Endo Capsule to be sold in Japan in September 2007.

*Compared to Given Imaging Ltd. (Source: Nikkei BP)

(History of Endoscopes, OLYMPUS corporation)