Health Monitoring Pharmaceuticals Precision Medicine

What are Smart Pills?

Jagjeet Hara — McMaster Biomedical Discovery & Commercialization 2023

According to Statistics Canada, gastrointestinal (GI) diseases are responsible for over 300,000 deaths each year in Canada across all ages (3). GI diseases are predicted to increase over the next ten years and can impact human health on a global level. Common causes of digestive issues within our population involve chronic stress, harmful pesticides, and the consumption of the Standard American Diet (3)(4).

After identifying this increase in disease prevalence, researchers are aware that there is a gap in diagnostic technology assessing GI symptoms. By turning to the world of smart medical devices, we open up a variety of options for GI disease diagnosis. One of these examples is the SmartPill device.

The SmartPill is a wireless capsule that a physician can use which monitors parameters such as pH, pressure, gastrointestinal transit time, and temperature throughout your digestive tract (5). The capsule is currently approved by the FDA for the diagnosis of conditions that are related to gastric emptying delays and general gastrointestinal motility disease (6).

SOURCE: BASS Medical Group (1)

The SmartPill functions as an endoscopic capsule. Patients swallow an activated wireless pH, pressure, and temperature capsule. This capsule contains sensors that measure pH (with a range of 0.5-9), temperature (with a range of 25-49 °C), and pressure (with a range of 0-350 mmHg) (5). After ingestion, the capsule signals are transmitted from within the GI tract and captured by a receiver. The data receiver is a portable device worn on a belt or a lanyard by the patient and it records information collected by the capsule (5). The data is then stored in the device and transmitted to a computer which provides the physician with the necessary information to evaluate the function of the patient’s stomach and intestines. The patient then continues with their day-to-day activities, and the pill is usually passed within 1-2 days. After passing the pill, the patient returns the data recorder to the physician’s office where the results are then analyzed.

SOURCE: Wang et. al (2)

The current standard of care for diagnostic procedures involves invasive or uncomfortable methods such as upper GI barium swallow tests, gastroscopy, endoscopy, or gastric manometry. The use of the SmartPill, however, may mitigate patient discomfort due to its ingestible approach. For the reliability of results, a study was done assessing the clinical use of wireless motility capsules. The SmartPill capsule detected a generalized motility disorder in 51% of patients (7). The capsule was also shown to influence management decisions in 30% of patients with lower GI disorders and 88% of patients with upper GI disorders (8).  These results show that the SmartPill can function as an advantage to our healthcare system by comfortably assessing gastrointestinal parameters, allowing seamless data collection, and providing physicians with assistance for disease management.


  1. Diagnostic Test: SmartPillTM Motility [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jan 26]. Available from:
  2. Fig. 5 CAD drawing of SmartPill ® with the location of the sensors and… [Internet]. ResearchGate. [cited 2023 Jan 26]. Available from:
  3. Government of Canada SC. Deaths, by cause, Chapter XI: Diseases of the digestive system (K00 to K93) [ Internet]. 2022 [cited 2022 Nov 27]. Available from:
  4. Browning KN, Travagli RA. Central Nervous System Control of Gastrointestinal Motility and Secretion and Modulation of Gastrointestinal Functions. Compr Physiol. 2014 Oct;4(4):1339–68.
  5. Tu P, Chi L, Bodnar W, Zhang Z, Gao B, Bian X, et al. Gut Microbiome Toxicity: Connecting the Environment and Gut Microbiome-Associated Diseases. Toxics. 2020 Mar 12;8(1):19.
  6. Cassilly D, Kantor S, Knight LC, Maurer AH, Fisher RS, Semler J, et al. Gastric emptying of a non-digestible solid: assessment with simultaneous SmartPill pH and pressure capsule, antroduodenal manometry, gastric emptying scintigraphy. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2008;20(4):311–9.
  7. SmartPill Wins 510(k) Release From FDA [Internet]. BioSpace. [cited 2022 Nov 27]. Available from:
  8. Saad RJ, Hasler WL. A Technical Review and Clinical Assessment of the Wireless Motility Capsule. Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2011 Dec;7(12):795–804.

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