HEALTH MATTERS: ‘Sponge on a string’ endoscopy alternative rolls out to NHSGGC patients

By Democrat reporter

A new technique which provides patients from West Dunbartonshire and Helensburgh with a more comfortable and efficient alternative to an endoscopy has been launched at Gartnavel General Hospital in Glasgow, with the first patients having now undergone the procedure.

Available to selected patients, the cytosponge test is a simple safe and effective way of diagnosing esophageal (gullet) conditions. It involves a specially designed capsule attached to a string which is swallowed by the patient. The capsule dissolves in the stomach to reveal a tiny sponge which the clinical team then recovers from the patient by pulling the string. On the way back up, the sponge collects cells in the oesophagus which can then be analysed for abnormalities by the clinical team. The test will help diagnose conditions such as Barrett’s Oesophagus, which is a risk factor for esophageal cancer.

Steven Williams, 58, from Renfrew is one of the first patients to have benefited from the procedure, and having experienced endoscopies in the past, welcomes the roll out of the innovation. He believes it will make the process much easier for many patients.

The whole test takes around seven minutes, with the removal of the sponge taking only 1 – 2 seconds. It’s hoped the procedure, which is a non-aerosol generating, will mean more patients can be seen in the context of COVID-19, which has put restrictions on the amount of endoscopies which can be performed.

Steven said: “An endoscopy isn’t something people look forward to so being able to have this alternative procedure was a huge relief for me. The process was extremely simple and I was able to chat away to the clinical team the whole time.

“It was a case of washing the pill down with a glass of water and relaxing for the next five minutes. I’ve never been in and out of the hospital so quickly. I want to thank the team involved in my care as they were excellent, as they always are.”

After analysis by the clinical team, Steven was given the all clear, and now does not have to attend another appointment for the next three years.

He added: “It’s great this procedure is now being rolled out to more patients as it really is much less invasive feeling than the endoscopy and I’m sure it’ll mean doctors will be able to identify potential problems much easier.”

Staff are currently being trained to carry out the cytosponge test, and NHSGGC is among a number of boards in Scotland with funding allocated to provide the procedure.

Dr Paul Glen, an upper gastrointestinal surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, said:  “The Cytosponge procedure will play an increasingly important role in the identification of eosophageal conditions in patients within Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

“A number of our staff have undergone the training and we plan on rolling out the procedure to more selected patients in coming weeks.

“During the pandemic we have only been able to perform urgent endoscopies but the introduction of the cytosponge which is a non-aerosol generating procedure, means we’re now able to safely and efficiently test people in the context of the virus.”

 Pictured: Cytosponge

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