Introducing Capsule Sponge Tests in Wales (Betsi Cadwaladr)

Status Active
Programme Upper GI Programme
Partners Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board

Project Lead(s)

Duncan Stewart

Duncan Stewart

Consultant Upper Gi & General Surgeon, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board

Helen Lawrence

Helen Lawrence

Speciality Manager Medicine, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board


Given current pressures on endoscopy services and projected demand, there is urgent need for an innovative diagnostic test to help bridge the gap between demand and service provision

Mr Duncan Stewart

Referrals for endoscopy are now higher than they ever were before the pandemic.

The CytospongeTM cell collection device is a minimally invasive, non-endoscopic system that has been developed to allow the sampling of cells lining the oesophagus.

CytospongeTM has never been used in Wales but given the current pressures on endoscopy services it has potential to help bridge the gap between demand and service provision.

The device itself is a small, 3cm diameter sponge that is initially contained within a capsule the size of a multi-vitamin pill. It has a 50cm string attached and is swallowed with a drink of water. It is then left for the capsule to dissolve in the stomach exposing the sponge, before removing the device after approximately 7-8 minutes, collecting cells from the lining of the oesophagus as it is withdrawn.

There is no need for sedation or local anaesthetic (throat spray), and the procedure can be carried out in an out-patient setting. The whole process can reasonably be completed in 15-20 minutes and requires vastly less equipment, infrastructure and staffing resource than a diagnostic UGI endoscopy.

This project will introduce and evaluate the implementation of CytospongeTM in Wrexham Maelor Hospital in the first half of 2023. Over six months, it will be used in the diagnosis process for c.110 patients, with a focus on patients under surveillance owing to Barrett’s oesophagus.

We are also supporting Powys Teaching Health Board to introduce Capsule Sponge Tests. Find out more about how that work is progressing here

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