Digestive Health

Updated 09 May 2017

SpyGlass system helps doctors view bile duct strictures

The SpyGlass, manufactured by Boston Scientific in the United States, is an important advance in the field of hepato-pancreato-biliary (HPB) and academic medicine in the Western Cape.


The SpyGlass DS Direct Visualisation System may sound like something out of the latest James Bond movie, but it is actually new medical technology that was recently introduced at a private hospital in Cape Town.

Direct visualisation of lesions

The technology was acquired by the Digestive Diseases Centre (DDC) of UCT Private Academic Hospital, and is designed to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of patients suffering from a range of digestive health disorders.

According to Professor Eduard Jonas, a surgeon who practises at the DDC, the SpyGlass enables doctors to directly and more accurately visualise these systems. “The technology significantly enhances our diagnostic capabilities in enabling direct visualisation of lesions,” observes Prof Jonas, who is also the head of the Surgical Gastroenterology/Hepatobiliary Unit at the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital.

Read: Colonoscopy may miss 8% of cancers

“Establishing the precise nature of indeterminate strictures in the biliary and ductal systems has been a long-standing challenge. The Spyglass is particularly valuable in that it allows us to better investigate indeterminate bile duct strictures. It also offers more options for the management of difficult bile duct and pancreatic stones.”

Prof Jonas explains that the SpyGlass DS System is a refinement of an earlier device, offering better image quality with four times higher resolution and a 60% wider field of view. It also offers a channel which enables devices and guidewires to be passed through it.

Such devices may include, for example, a biopsy forceps for directed biopsies of diseased tissue under direct vision, and laser technologies that are able to break down difficult biliary and pancreatic stones.

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“This new improved technology has only recently been introduced to South Africa and has so far only been used in a handful of procedures,” says Prof Jonas. According to Lieselle Shield, general manager of UCT Private Academic Hospital (UCTPAH), the new SpyGlass technology is not available to patients in public hospitals in the Western Cape at present.

Cutting-edge medical technology

However, through its unique working relationship with Groote Schuur Hospital, UCTPAH is able to make state-of-the-art technologies such as this available to public sector patients through special funding arrangements.

“This is an excellent example of the public and private sectors working together to the benefit of patients from both sectors,” adds Shield.

Read: The importance of a colonoscopy

Shield says that the SpyGlass, which is manufactured by Boston Scientific in the United States, is an important advance in the field of hepato-pancreato-biliary (HPB) and academic medicine in the Western Cape.  

“Technology such as this strengthens UCTPAH’s position as a centre of learning excellence and will serve to advance our medical knowledge, particularly as it will be applied in a limited resources context and in our populations with their unique disease profiles.”

“Furthermore, Spyglass ensures that UCTPAH will remain at the cutting edge in the management of HPB diseases in South Africa. We applaud the DDC for taking the initiative to partner with the hospital to introduce this cutting-edge medical technology,” concludes Shield.

Read more:

What are digestive disorders? 

Symptoms of digestive disorders 

Treating digestive disorders