New Device Helps WVU Doctors Diagnose and Treat Digestive Diseases 

“SpyGlass” technology now in use at WVU

West Virginia University Hospitals is one of the select sites in the country now using the new SpyGlass Direct Visualization Cholangioscopy System for digestive diseases ranging from gallstones to cancer.  The device allows doctors to see inside a patient’s digestive system and to more accurately diagnose a patient’s illness.    

A fiber optic probe the size of a thin spaghetti noodle captures high-resolution digital images in areas of the digestive system that have been difficult for doctors to reach.  

“Before SpyGlass, the traditional technology only allowed us to see black and white x-ray images, so sometimes it was difficult to make a diagnosis without additional tests,” Uma Sundaram, M.D., chief of Digestive Diseases at WVU and director of Endoscopy at WVU Hospitals, said.  “SpyGlass helps us find out almost immediately whether the patient has a gallstone, benign narrowing or a tumor that is obstructing their bile ducts.” 

The bile ducts are tiny tubes that empty the liver, gallbladder and pancreas into the small intestine.  Obstructions in the ducts may cause intense abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, jaundice, and in severe cases could lead to an infection in the tubes that spreads through the bloodstream and could be fatal. 

The Spy Glass technology enhances the traditional Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP.  With a traditional ERCP a scope is placed in the sedated patient’s mouth, down the esophagus, through the stomach and into the small intestine to find the tiny opening into the bile ducts.  However, the ERCP scope was too large to fit through the papilla and into the bile ducts.

Now the minuscule SpyGlass camera provides a window into this part of a person’s body.

“With the SpyGlass Visualization System, I watch a series of three TV monitors in the procedure room, one of which displays the images being captured by the SpyGlass device,” Sundaram explained.  “The SpyGlass camera and monitors allow me to see exactly what I’m selecting for biopsy.  This technology provides us with accurate information, in real-time, that wasn’t available before.”  

As a result of the increased accuracy, patients are able to receive the most appropriate treatment for their condition.  Currently, about 700 of these procedures are completed each year at WVU Hospitals for patients from all over West Virginia, and parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio. 

The SpyGlass Direct Visualization System is produced by Boston Scientific, a developer of medical devices used around the world. 

For more information about digestive diseases treatment at WVU, visit http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/medicine/digestiveDiseases/.                                               

- WVU -

For more information:
Emily Corio, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087

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