Magnetic Flexible Endoscope

With an aging population increasing the risk of bowel cancer and inflammatory bowel disease on the rise, more than 1 million patients in the UK and 15 million in the US are scheduled for a colonoscopy each year. We are pioneering a new design of endoscope that will enable faster, painless, low cost investigations.

Traditional methods of endoscopy can cause discomfort and pain because they are introduced to the colon by pushing the device through the body. The human gut tissue pain receptors are particularly sensitive to stretching, which is an unavoidable effect with the traditional design of endoscope. In the US deep anaesthesia is used for all colonoscopies, which increases cost and risk. In the UK where conscious sedation is preferred, many colonoscopies are not completed because of discomfort to patients, increasing the risk of undiagnosed cancers.

The new technology uses a magnetic capsule, with built-in imaging capability, which is propelled forwards through the body by an external magnetic robot arm. The operator uses the camera in the capsule to drive it forward or backwards with a joystick, like driving a car. The joystick makes it easy to learn how to operate the system as it will be familiar to users because it is similar to a gaming console controller. There is currently a long training time to use the complicated controls of traditional endoscopes and a shortage of skilled operators in the UK, which the ease of use of the new technology could alleviate.

The system can also be driven autonomously at the touch of a button, with the operator needed only to feed the tube. This will speed up the procedure to around two minutes to reach the end of the colon, enabling the gastroenterologist to use the flexible head of the device to look for cancer as the endoscope is withdrawn.

The hope is that faster procedures will mean many more patients can be seen, easing the current waiting times and also that most procedures will be completed.