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Annually, over 3 million people in the US alone suffer gastrointestinal (GI) disease serious enough to require hospitalization. In over one-third of these cases, the cause is never found. Despite standard invasive examination techniques, much of the GI tract's inner workings remain a mystery. Procedures exist for examining the esophagus and stomach (gastroscopy) and the colon (colonoscopy), delivering some information at a cost of much distress to the patient. However, the small intestine remains inaccessible. Swallowable capsules have been evolving for almost half a century and are now helping uncover GI tract mysteries in diagnostic and therapeutic applications. Here, we briefly review the history of the technology, present the state of the art, and describe ongoing research.
Date of Publication: Jan.-March 2008