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Inflammatory Bowel Disease Learning Zone

Topical scientific insights

Read time: 10 mins
Last updated:14th Oct 2021
Published:14th Oct 2021

Latest topical insights being discussed amongst the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) community considering publication trends:

  • Using pill-sized cameras that can be swallowed to help diagnose gastrointestinal conditions.

Can swallowing a tiny camera really help check signs of Crohn’s disease and other gastrointestinal conditions?

Thousands of patients to swallow pill-sized cameras but can this new technology:

  • provide an alternative means to colon capsule endoscopy used in other diseases?
  • aid with the low numbers of endoscopies being carried out due to the pandemic?

To date, limited trials have investigated the potential of swallowing a small capsule to replace colonoscopy in detecting cancer1. However, a trial of this new technology is currently being carried out by the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom. An initial group of 11,000 NHS patients will be trialed at 40 different sites across England whereby patients will swallow pill-sized cameras to check for bowel cancer2.

These mini cameras pass through the body and take photos, checking for signs of cancer and other conditions such as Crohn’s disease2,3. Crohn’s disease is one form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects over 0.3% of the population in many regions of Europe, North America and Oceania4. The pathogenesis of Crohn’s is not well understood but is thought to involve the innate and immune responses. Although there is no current cure for the disease, management of Crohn’s disease includes exploiting several inflammatory targets5.


  1. Loyola University Health System. New alternative to colonoscopy is as easy as swallowing a pill -- ScienceDaily. 2017. Accessed 22 June 2021.
  2. ITV. Thousands of patients to swallow cameras the size of a pill to check for cancer; ITV News. 2021. Accessed 22 June 2021.
  3. Robertson K. and Singh R. Capsule Endoscopy - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf. 2020. Accessed 23 June 2021.
  4. Ng SC, Shi HY, Hamidi N, Underwood FE, Tang W, Benchimol EI, et al. Worldwide incidence and prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease in the 21st century: a systematic review of population-based studies. Lancet. 2017;390(10114):2769–2778.
  5. Aggeletopoulou I, Assimakopoulos SF, Konstantakis C, Triantos CC. Interleukin 12/interleukin 23 pathway: Biological basis and therapeutic effect in patients with Crohn’s disease. World J Gastroenterol. 2018;24(36):4093–4103.
  6. NIH. Diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease | NIDDK. 2017. Accessed 22 June 2021.
  7. Jung SA. Differential diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease: What is the role of colonoscopy? Clinical Endoscopy. 2012;45(3):254–262.
  8. Cosnes J, Cattan S, Blain A, Beaugerie L, Carbonnel F, Parc R, et al. Long-term evolution of disease behavior of Crohn’s disease. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2002;8(4):244–250.
  9. Thia KT, Sandborn WJ, Harmsen WS, Zinsmeister AR, Loftus E V. Risk factors associated with progression to intestinal complications of Crohn’s disease in a population-based cohort. Gastroenterology. 2010;139(4):1147–1155.
  10. Medtronic. PillCamTM SB 3 Capsule | Medtronic (UK). 2013. Accessed 22 June 2021.
  11. Young Crohns. IBD Basics: Endoscopy •. 2018. Accessed 22 June 2021.
  12. NHS England » NHS rolls out capsule cameras to test for cancer. Accessed 22 June 2021.
  13. Morris EJA, Goldacre R, Spata E, Mafham M, Finan PJ, Shelton J, et al. Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the detection and management of colorectal cancer in England: a population-based study. Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2021;6(3):199–208.
  14. McAlindon M. COVID-19: Impetus to the adoption of capsule endoscopy as a primary diagnostic tool? Frontline Gastroenterology. 2021;12(4):263–264.
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