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Using Pill Cams to Detect AVMs: November 15, 2011

Gastrointestinal bleeding is a red flag, but doesn’t always mean you have a disease. Determining its source may take some investigation.

“You can bleed from an ulcer, you can bleed from gastritis, you can bleed from inflammation of the lining of the stomach. So there are many causes,” says Dr. Nick Sharma, a gastroenterologist on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

Last on the list of culprits are AVMs, or arteriorvenous malformations. They’re basically an abnormal collection of blood vessels.

“They’re not truly a disease they’re just old blood vessels that can bleed, and they once again bleed intermittently,” says Dr. Sharma.

AVMs are easily detected everywhere in the GI tract, except for one hiding spot.

“The small bowel in between has always been, it’s been very illusive trying to find out if there’s any AVMs in there,” says Dr. Sharma.

That changed with the capsule endoscopy, a device that puts AVMs of the small bowel on display.

This is a capsule endoscopy or pill cam, the size of a dime a patient swallows it and it opens up their digestive system for viewing.

“It passes through your system easily and you pass it naturally but it transmits these pictures which are then correlated into, an actual video of your small bowel,” says Dr. Sharma.

Doctors can then review the pictures, looking for any abnormalities.

“That’s been very informative for us in helping diagnose AVMs and other conditions,” says Dr. Sharma.

It’s one tiny pill, showing big results.