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A SmartPill® is a medical device which is designed to be used in gastric motility assessments. Patients swallow the pill, and the pill connects wirelessly with a receiver to relay data from inside the body. The SmartPill® is a less invasive alternative to endoscopy, another technique which can be used to assess the health of the digestive tract. After patients takes the pill, they are free to engage in ordinary activities and in fact encouraged to do so, so that the pill will provide realistic data.
In addition to tracking gastric motility, the movements of the stomach which slowly break food down and push it into the bowel, the SmartPill® also measures the transit time through the large and small bowel. The pill is designed to create a complete picture of how long it takes the patient to digest something, and how much time food spends in various areas of the stomach and the bowel. This information can be critical to the understanding of a patient's condition.
If a doctor feels that a SmartPill® would be a useful diagnostic tool for a patient, he or she administers the pill in the office, and provides the patient with a receiver. Patients can clip the receivers onto their belts or wear them on lanyards, and they can also take them off for activities such as bathing, as long as the receiver remains within five feet (about one and a half meters) of the patient. Within two days, the patient should naturally pass the SmartPill®, and the receiver can be brought back to the doctor.
The doctor takes the information from the receiver and runs it through specialized software designed by the SmartPill Corporation. The software processes the basic gastric motility data, along with the temperature, pressure, and pH readings from the digestive tract, allowing the doctor to learn more about the patient's condition, and to develop an effective treatment plan for gastroenterological issues such as gastroparesis, in which the stomach does not empty its contents quickly enough.
The term “smart pill” is also used to describe a pill which has been designed to release medication at a precise location in the gastrointestinal tract, ensuring that the medication is delivered to an ideally targeted area. Several smart pill designs have been floating around the medical community since the 1990s. Some people also refer to pills which are supposed to improve cognitive function as smart pills, although the efficacy of such products is dubious.
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