The Future of Colonoscopy
Discomfort has always been an excuse for avoiding an colonoscopy procedure, but those days may be coming to an end. It is hard to blame patients who put off having a colonoscopy. The hype and embarrassment make the procedure sound much worse than it is in reality. The goods news for both consumers and medical professionals is advancements in this technology are improving the comfort level of colon screening, according to the American Cancer Society.
A typical colonoscopy involves inserting a lighted, flexible tube into the rectum in order to visualize the colon. This procedure allows doctors to look for polyps and to test any growth for malignancy. The anxiety and pain from the procedure is leading gastroenterologists to consider deeper levels of sedation to improve patient comfort. The alternative is to give them new ways of seeing inside the colon that are both effective and patient-tolerable. The future of colonoscopy is changing for the better.
Variable Stiffness Scope
One side effect of a standard colonoscopy is looping. This occurs when the flexible tubing catches in the intestinal curves and pushes against the colon causing a loop to form. New colonoscopy tools give doctors control over the stiffness of the scope. This way the tube is pliable when necessary and firm when pushing forward. The practitioner has full control.
Dual Balloon System
A dual balloon system uses air pressure to advance the scope forward through the colon. That means the instrument never comes in contact with the wall of the intestine. The device relies on balloon technology to provide gentle pressure instead of forcing the tube to push through. This helps reduce incidents of looping, as well.
The Prepless Colonoscopy
One of the drawbacks for patients facing an anoscopy procedure is the cleansing necessary to prepare the colon. They must consume up to a gallon or more of a laxative in just a few hours to clear the colon from fecal matter that will obstruct the scope’s view. Researchers in Europe are looking at MRI technology as a possible answer.
With new MRI procedures, doctors can tell the difference between abnormal structures and fecal matter based on density. The prepless colonoscopy will encourage more patients to get the test and improve screening procedures.
The Virtual Colonoscopy
Imaging is offering more choices for a high tech colonoscopy. With the virtual approach, the patient drinks an iodinated contrast agent able to tag fecal matter. The doctor uses x-ray beams to see inside the colon, and the contrast material allows them to tell the difference between the stool and other structures that require further investigation. The procedure itself takes under 10 minutes to complete and requires no sedation. After reviewing the images, the gastroenterologist can opt for a more invasive produce if necessary.
How about an ingestible scope? A PillCam is a capsule endoscopy device that allow medical professionals to visualize the gastrointestinal tract. PillCam COLON 2, by Given Imaging, is specifically meant to replace the invasive colonoscopy. Each camera provides a 154 to 172 degree view of the colon. The device uses artificial intelligence to determine when the camera is in the correct location. While in the stomach, it produces six images a minute. Once the capsule moves into the small bowel, the rate increases to four images a second.
The PillCam is able to prompt the patient to keep the device moving through the tract, as well. If it sits in the stomach too long, it will vibrate so the patient knows to take a prokinetic agent like domperidone to get it moving. In the small bowel, it might send a signal to the external display suggesting the patient ingest a laxative to move the capsule to the colon. After the exam, it passes naturally out of the body.
Mapping the Colon
Described as a colonoscopy technique similar to Google street view, this new scope uses blood vessels in the colon to create a map. This gives doctors a 360 degree view of the inside of the intestinal tract. While still an invasive procedure, it offers a much better look at what is going on in the colon, making removal of structures more precise and effective. The ability to identify and map any suspicious polyps or lesions will mean more accurate diagnosis and better screening.
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. Improving the technology does two things. It helps enhance screening techniques to reduce the number of deaths, and it alleviates a patient’s fear of getting tested. If the medical industry can make colonoscopy procedures more palatable, patients are more likely to agree to get the test. Finding and treating the disease early is the most practical way to improve colon health.