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Novel camera pill to visualize the gastrointestinal tract

Vet checking horseIt is difficult to perform a thorough internal examination of the horse’s intestinal tract which often limits the ability to diagnose intestinal disease. Imaging techniques are mainly limited to examination of the stomach using long endoscopes, or to perform an ultrasound scan of the abdomen, which allows partial visualization of a portion of the intestinal tract. Capsule endoscopy offers a new method for imaging the inside lining (mucosa) of the gastrointestinal mucosa. This technology has been approved for human use for over a decade and is superior to other diagnostic methods in detecting small bowel objects, locating sources of gastrointestinal bleeding, and evaluating inflammatory intestinal disease while being less invasive.

Canadian researchers have tested a novel wireless endoscopy capsule in 5 healthy horses which uses 4 cameras and an internal LED light source to capture high resolution, 360° diagnostic images of the gastrointestinal tract1. This technology allows the horse to engage in normal daily activities as images are stored in an onboard memory system. The capsule was inserted by stomach tube and passed out in manure. Visualization of the small intestine was excellent but limited for the large intestine. Areas of thickened and irregular mucosa and areas of erosion and ulceration were imaged in the stomach and small intestine. The ileocecal junction (junction of small and large intestine), normal caecal mucosa and parasites were observed in the upper large intestine. Presence of feed material limited visualization of the mucosa and prior starving of the horse for 24h aided image collection.

This technology requires further optimization but allows the exciting prospect of better visualization of the horse’s gastrointestinal tract, in particular the upper part of the large intestine which is currently very restricted. This will hopefully allow more detailed investigation of equine large intestinal pathology such as whether horses suffer hindgut ulceration.

1. Steinmann, M, Bezugley, RJ, Bond, SL, Pomrantz, JS, Léguillette, R. A wireless endoscopy capsule suitable for imaging of the equine stomach and small intestine. J Vet Intern Med. 2020; 1– 9.Available HERE

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