A TRIAL of a new endoscopy technique is set to go ahead across NHS Forth Valley.

The health board will be taking part in a national trial of Cytosponge, an innovative procedure heralded as a potential game changer.

The single-use diagnostic device is a small mesh sponge on a string, wrapped in a coated pill so it can easily be ingested with a glass of water.

Once the pill is dissolved in the stomach, Cytosponge expands into a small, rough textured sponge which collects cells from the lining of the oesophagus as healthcare staff retrieve it using the string attached.

It could become a game changer when it comes to diagnosing cancer at early stage for patients at risk of developing oesophageal cancer as the procedure removes the need for an anaesthetic and can be completed in just a few minutes.

Around 25 per cent of patients with gastric reflux who require an endoscopy may be eligible for the new procedure.

Juliette Murray, NHS Forth Valley's deputy medical director for acute services, said: “We are really excited to be taking part in this important new national trial.

“Not only is this simple procedure much more comfortable for the patient, as it only takes minutes to complete, we will be able to carry out more of these procedures at each clinic.

“Early diagnosis of oesophageal cancer is vital to improve survival rates and patients can also benefit from less severe treatment options if their cancer is caught at an earlier stage.”

Following the procedure, the samples collected are sent off for analysis to detect whether or not there is a biomarker that indicates Barrett’s Oesophagus.

Barrett’s Oesophagus is usually diagnosed by having a biopsy during an endoscopy.

This can be uncomfortable and carries some risks – and it’s not always practical for everyone who has symptoms like reflux and heartburn.