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Wednesday, 8 December, 1999, 19:21 GMT
Magnetic pill to monitor stomach contents
Throat Technique could avoid throat tubes


Researchers are developing a magnetic pill that could one day give doctors an instant measure of the acidity of a patient's stomach contents.

The technology could provide a much less unpleasant alternative to sticking a tube down a partient's throat.

It could be an effective way to diagnose gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a disorder in which gastric fluid is spouted up from the stomach into the oesophagus, or swallowing tube, causing damage to the tissue.

Symptoms include heartburn, chest pain and painful swallowing.

GERD is currently detected by monitoring the acid, or pH value, of the stomach contents by inserting a catheter down the oesophagus.

New Scientist magazine reports that the "pill" is being developed by researchers at the University of Kentucky.

The device consists of a tiny piece of magnetic tape coated with a polymer (plastic).

Changes shape

The coating expands and contracts in response to small changes in pH (acidity), distorting the magnetic tape.

When stimulated by an external magnetic field, the magnetic tape emits radio waves at frequencies that depend on its shape.

Therefore the radio frequency reveals the PH in the stomach.

Sensor readings can be taken from more than a metre away.

The researchers say different ceramic coatings will let them measure other factors such as viscosity, pressure or humidity.

Lancashire GP Dr Mark Cottrill, a member of the Primary Care Society for Gastroenterology, said the research sounded "interesting".

However, he said it was not always necessary to measure the pH level in a patient's stomach before medication was prescribed.

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See also:
20 Jan 99 |  Medical notes
Ulcers factfile
01 Jul 98 |  Health
Stomach ulcers to be 'kicked into touch'
09 Aug 98 |  Health
User friendly treatment for stomach ulcers

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