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'Fantastic Voyage' Comes True

Pill camera travels through human body

Though it's much bigger than an ordinary pill and much smaller than a store-bought video camera, there's a device you can now swallow that lets you view your insides on a video screen.

The Given Imaging Capsule won marketing approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week. The device can go where no others can go, including through about 20 feet of small intestines where even endoscopes won't reach, says the FDA description.

The device, propelled by the natural undulations of the intestines, snaps a picture every two seconds and transmits it to a wrist-worn data storage device. Doctors then download the data and display it on a computer for diagnosis of such things as polyps, cancer, causes of bleeding and anemia or ulcers. The device takes about eight hours to pass through a person and is expelled rectally.

The Georgia-based subsidiary of the Israeli company that makes the device summarizes its research here.

The Imaging Capsule is the latest in technological body-imaging developments, which began in 1895 with the invention of the X-ray machine that lets doctors see inside the human body. The various types of medical imaging are described by Dr. Thomas F. Budinger.

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