Camera in a Capsule: A New Way to View Horses’ GI Tracts

While physicians have used capsule endoscopy in humans for more than a decade, it’s only recently become commercially available on the veterinary market for dogs and shows promise for use in horses.
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Capsule endoscopy is completely wireless, with the capsule able to travel the length of the tract, recording video as long as its battery permits. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Renaud Leguillette

What if your horse could swallow a tiny capsule containing a camera, giving you and your veterinarian a look at the nearly 100 feet of twisting, turning intestinal tract, and any gastrointestinal issues therein? This isn’t futuristic musing—one veterinarian has determined that the approach, called wireless capsule endoscopy, is a workable way to check the gastrointestinal mucosa (lining) for ulcers and injury, though maybe for just the first 80-or-so feet.

Renaud Leguillette, DVM, Msc, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVSMR, professor of equine internal medicine in the University of Calgary’s Department of Veterinary Clinical and Diagnostic Science, in Alberta, Canada, wanted to be able to see “intraluminal” lesions within the small and large intestines. These are likely quite common but challenging to diagnose with current imaging techniques. So, taking a page from human and small animal medicine, he recently tested the new imaging technique in horses, presenting his findings at the 2018 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in San Francisco, California.

In contrast to traditional endoscopy, which involves passing a 3-meter-long scope (a little less than 10 feet) through the horse’s nostril into the GI tract—only reaching just past the stomach to the first section of the small intestine–capsule endoscopy is completely wireless, with the capsule able to travel the length of the tract, recording video as long as its battery permits

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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