News Release: School of Medicine , Woodruff Health Sciences

Dec. 20,  2011

Emory Adopts Ingestible Capsule Technology to Diagnose Digestive Disorders

SmartPill Capsule Offers Motility Patients an Alternative

An estimated 60 to 70 million Americans are living with one of many digestive disorders, which are often difficult to diagnose. Until now, patients with symptoms like unexplained lack of appetite, vomiting, stomach spasms, bloating and weight loss have had to undergo a number of invasive tests, costing time, money and discomfort.  

Gastroenterologists at Emory University are now offering the SmartPill Wireless Motility Capsule Procedure to help better evaluate and diagnose patients with suspected motility disorders, which can cause abnormal movements within the GI tract. Common motility disorders include chronic constipation, gastoparesis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. 

The SmartPill Capsule is an ingestible medical device about the size of a large vitamin and can be used in place of other more invasive tests often used to evaluate unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms. During the SmartPill Wireless Motility Capsule Procedure, the patient swallows the single-use capsule in the physician’s office and then can return to his or her daily activities. As the capsule travels through the gastrointestinal tract for several days, it collects pressure, pH and temperature data, wirelessly transmitting that information to the SmartPill Data Receiver worn on the patient’s belt or around the neck on a lanyard.  

“By using SmartPill we can better identify which section of the GI tract is dysfunctional and target treatment to the specific abnormal site," comments Jennifer Christie, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Digestive Diseases and director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Center at Emory. "The SmartPill gives us information on gut motor function.”  

The SmartPill Capsule usually is passed within a few days. The patient then returns the receiver to the physician’s office where the data is downloaded to a computer providing regional transit times for the stomach, small bowel, colon and whole gut. Christie and her co-investigator, Shanthi Srinivasan, MD also are using the device to assess colonic transit for their research study in which diabetic patients with constipation are being randomized to receive study drug or placebo. Bowel patterns as well as colonic transit are documented before and during drug/placebo treatment. The team hopes to gain insight into colonic motility in diabetic patients.  

“Patients with gastroparesis or other motility disorders often suffer for long periods of time before finding proper diagnosis and treatment options,” says Christie. “With the SmartPill, patients have a more comfortable and less invasive alternative that may be able to give us answers in a matter of days.”


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

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