Magnet Controlled Camera

A team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering in Sankt Ingbert, Germany, led by Dr. Frank Volke, has developed a tiny magnet controlled camera that can take pictures of the upper gastro-intestinal tract. This device is easily controlled from outside the body by the physician and should improve the quality of stomach and esophagus imaging.




The camera pill is not larger than a candy. It can be swallowed by the patient. The doctor steers it through esophagus and stomach by a magnetic device. (Credit: Fraunhofer)  
The camera pill is not larger than a candy
. It can be swallowed by the patient.
The doctor steers it through esophagus
and stomach by a magnetic
device. (Credit: Fraunhofer)

Today, images of the intestine are acquired with relative ease. The patient swallows a tiny camera which makes its way through the intestine and transmits images to a receiver the patient carries with him throughout the examination. Later, the data stored in the device is analyzed by a physician and searched for irregularities, hemorrhages and cysts. However, this camera is problematic for the examination of the esophagus and the stomach, since it goes through them too quickly to obtain more than a few pictures. To test the esophagus, the patient needs to swallow an endoscope, which causes the patient great discomfort.

To simplify upper gastro-intestinal tract testing, these researchers are working in collaboration with engineers from the manufacturer Given Imaging, the Israelite Hospital in Hamburg, and the Royal Imperial College in London. They are developing a control system that will improve the camera’s performance. The researchers say that the device will make it possible for the doctor to stop the camera in the esophagus when necessary, move it up and down and turn it around, thus adjusting the angle of the camera to achieve the required image.  

 Magnet controlled camera to improve the quality of stomach and esophagus imaging (Credit: Given Imaging LTD)
Magnet controlled camera to
improve the quality of stomach
and esophagus imaging
(Credit: Given Imaging LTD)

The tiny pill is constructed to include the camera, a transmitter, a battery, and several cold-light diodes which briefly flare up like a flashlight every time a picture is taken. One prototype of the camera has already passed through a practical test. It was shown that the camera can spend up to 10 minutes in the esophagus, even when the patient was sitting upright and can thus help doctors receive batter images and relieve patients from the discomfort of having to undergo endoscopic examination.

TFOT has covered an invention by Dr. Volke’s collaborators, Given Imaging LTD, before: the PillCam Colon Video Capsule Endoscope. Another imaging system we’ve brought you uses light in the early detection of pancreatic cancer, developed by a group of researchers from Evanston, Illinois.

The press release from the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering can be found at their website.