Endoscopy :: Double balloon endoscopy treats GI disorders without surgery

A new high-tech device at the University of Michigan is making it possible to explore, diagnose and even treat obscure GI disorders without surgery.

Capable of traveling beyond the range of an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and colonoscopy, new high-tech devices at the University of Michigan Health System are making it possible to explore, diagnose and even treat obscure gastrointestinal disorders in the small intestine with minimal discomfort to the patient and without invasive surgical intervention.

The U-M Department of Internal Medicine’s Division of Gastroenterology is now in the beginning stages of using double balloon endoscopy technology – a minimally-invasive scope procedure that allows gastroenterologists to visualize the small bowel in real time, as well as perform biopsies and other therapeutic maneuvers without surgery. Plans are underway to expand the double balloon endoscopy program?s patient capacity in May.

?Double balloon endoscopy is a significant advancement in patient care at U-M,? says Laurel R. Fisher, M.D., clinical assistant professor, Division of Gastroenterology at the U-M Medical School.

?Using a scope instead of a scalpel to examine, as well as treat problems in the small intestine, will greatly improve the quality of life for our patients and significantly reduce the number of invasive surgical procedures needed to treat small bowel disorders,? she notes.

Before technology like the double balloon endoscopy was available, the small intestine was an uncharted and often unseen territory within the body. Once referred to as the body?s ?Dark Continent,? physicians previously were unable to access the small intestine without surgery – even colonoscopy and traditional endoscopy procedures were unable to provide a clear view of the small intestine.

Fisher?s non-invasive exploration of the small intestine began in 2001 when UMHS became the first hospital in Michigan to use capsule endoscopy – a wireless, pill-size camera capable of producing 60,000 digital images of the digestive tract and intestine when swallowed by a patient. From the teeth to the colon, the tiny capsule can record its entire journey though the digestive tract – 25 feet in all – while closely examining the 15 to 18 feet of the small bowel.

Since the capsule endoscopy program began, more than 1,000 patients have used capsule endoscopy at UMHS.

?The capsule endoscopy system was revolutionary in the diagnosis of small bowel disorders,? says Fisher, director of U-M?s Capsule Endoscopy Program. ?It?s allowed us to finally gain a clear view of polyps and other disorders in the small intestine such as bleeding or Crohn’s disease. The challenge, however, was that we could see the problems, but couldn?t easily intervene to provide treatment. Surgery was the only option.?

Now, with use of double balloon endoscopy on the horizon at U-M, Fisher has the ability to diagnose gastrointestinal disorders in the small intestine, as well as cauterize lesions and perform biopsies of inflammatory lesions like Crohn?s ulcers, or potentially-cancerous tumors. It currently is the only technology available that allows for therapeutic intervention of the small intestine, says Fisher.

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