Swallow a pill and it will track what is going on inside your body so doctors can make a diagnosis.

This isn't a far-fetched prediction for the future: This is SmartPill, a relatively new device that has been used on patients at Gastroenterology Associates of York and York Endoscopy Center since the beginning of 2012.

"It is a very specialized test," said Dr. Guoxiang "George" Shi of the York Township medical center, the only site in York where SmartPill is being used.

When Thomasville resident Dixie Forbes, 69, was offered the pill, she asked a lot of questions first.

"I asked a lot of questions because it was something so new, but they assured me that it would be fine, and it was," Forbes said.

How it works: All Forbes had to do was swallow the pill in the office and allow it to pass out of her body in a bowel movement.

"That way it can pinpoint anything they can't see and it gives more observation," said Forbes.

She wore a monitor that tracked where the pill was in her digestive system and stored all of the data being retrieved by the wireless device.

"It was very easy," Forbes said. "It was not a hard thing to do."

The SmartPill capsule is a wireless, ingestible medical device about the size of a large vitamin, said Shi.

It's a great option for patients because it can perform under real-life conditions, Shi said.


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Comfort: It is more comfortable then existing tests, and patients like it because it means they will have less exposure to radiation, he said.

"The patient swallows the single-use capsule in the doctor's office, then returns to their daily activities," he said.

As the capsule travels through the gastrointestinal tract, data is transmitted wirelessly to the SmartPill data receiver, which allows physicians to track a variety of measurements related to the gastric, small bowel and colonic systems, said Shi.

Physicians can thoroughly assess information for the whole system with SmartPill to make an accurate diagnosis and begin whatever drug therapy may be needed to treat the issue, Shi said.

History: Shi and his associates only began using SmartPill last year, but the device originally went on the market in 2007.

It was marketed to be used to treat gastroparesis, a disease in which the stomach muscles stop working, which means food is not sufficiently processed and has difficulty being emptied into the intestine.

People suffering from chronic constipation may also want to seek out the SmartPill, since it is used to evaluate colonic transit time in patients.

Shi likes SmartPill because it simplifies exams.

Several conditions rule out SmartPill as an option for some people. Those include disorders related to difficulty swallowing, and severe dysphagia or diverticulitis.

Anyone who has had GI surgery within the past three months would also not qualify to take SmartPill, said Shi.

-- Reach Chelsea Shank at 505-5432 or cshank@yorkdispatch.com