The endoscopy unit at James Cook University Hospital is using miniature camera technology to check abnormalities in the oesophagus and stomach.

The procedure is known as an upper GI capsule endoscopy or PillCams. For many patients, the technology makes for a more comfortable procedure, compared to conventional techniques.

The technology has previously been used at the hospital to investigate bowel abnormalities. A year on, its use has been extended to offer patients the opportunity to use the PillCams in place of a conventional gastroscopy.

Leila Lyons, nurse endoscopist at James Cook said: “This is an exciting development which has the potential to offer certain patients a more comfortable alternative to a traditional gastroscopy.

In a lot of cases, a traditional gastroscopy is necessary, if we need to take samples for instance, but when we simply need to look at the UGI tract a camera pill is a great alternative.”

Patients are required to drink a large glass of water and have sensor stickers applied to their abdomen ahead of swallowing the capsule. These data sensors are connected to a data recorder.

The camera is then swallowed while the patient is lying on their side. The patient needs to change position a few times for the medical team to capture all the necessary views of the upper GI tract.

The data recorder is disconnected from the device once the camera enters the small bowel. The patient can eat and drink normally as soon as the procedure is over and they can be discharged quickly. The device will eventually be discarded naturally.

James Cook University Hospital is part of South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The trust is taking part in the first UK clinical trial of an AI device that helps clinicians identify polyps during colonoscopies.