Some good news for 2019 is that an x-ray capsule designed for colorectal screening will be available to doctors in the U.S. by the end of the year.

Called capsule endoscopy, it is a procedure that uses a tiny wireless camera to take pictures of your digestive tract. A camera sits inside a vitamin-sized capsule you swallow and travels through your stomach and intestines. The camera takes thousands of pictures that are transmitted to a recorder you wear on a belt around your waist.

XRay Pill

An ultra-low dose x-ray technology produces a 3D map of the patient’s colon, and differs itself from the current procedures by eliminating the need for bowel prep, sedation, and missed work. For the first time we will have the opportunity to examine the nondistended colon in its natural state.

With the aid of a small amount of an iodine-based agent, the colon wall can be set apart and imaged in two separate processes without obstruction. One interacts with the iodine and the other with the wall alone to create the 3D effect. A scanning algorithm using real-time tracking data identifies when to perform the scan.

XRay Pill

And the two processes can be viewed in different ways to look for polyps. There is the familiar “tube” view, a flattened or “fillet” option, and even a view of the outside surface of the colon, which had previously only been accessible by surgery.

Over the course of two to three days travel time the capsule will provide x-rays, and if polyps are detected a regular colonoscopy screening will be prescribed.

Regulatory approval with the FDA is set to be determined within the next few months, and while there are currently other options for colorectal cancer screening, they haven’t offered the accuracy of a colonoscopy. The hope is this capsule will provide a noninvasive and less anxiety-inducing alternative.