Colonoscopies Made Less Invasive, With the Mermaid

Colonoscopies are somewhat shunned for the obvious reason: no one looks forward to a doctor snaking a camera on a flexible tube (an endoscope) through their colon (via the obvious entry point) to look for polyps or worse. A new self-propelled device known as a "Mermaid" might make the procedure less invasive, and less frightening.

The Mermaid was developed by a Japanese research team. It is only about 0.4 inches in diameter and slightly less than 2 inches in length. It is propelled by a tail fin-like driving gear remotely controlled by an operator. Other such small devices were previously used, but relied on the motive force of a patient's digestive system to make it through the colon, which was less accurate and precise.

The Mermaid is also able to traverse the entire digestive tract, meaning both the stomach and small intestine could be examined, in addition to the colon. The entry point for the Mermaid can be from "either direction." " The device is capable of taking two images per second, and its driving gear is powered by an electromagnet, controlled by the operator's joystick.

One problem with the whole thing is that while many people are afraid of the standard colonoscopy procedure, those who have experienced it know that the worst part isn't the colonoscopy itself. Instead, it's the cleaning out of your colon (it must be squeaky clean so that polyps can be identified) via a flushing procudure. 'Nuff said?