What is capsule endoscopy?

Capsule Endoscopy allows your doctor to examine your small intestine which is unable to be reached by traditional upper endoscopy or colonoscopy. Your doctor will have you swallow a pill sized video camera. This camera has its own light source and will take pictures as it travels through your small intestine. The pictures are sent to a small recording device you will wear during the test. Your doctor will be able to view these pictures and might be able to provide you with useful information regarding your small intestine.

Why is capsule endoscopy done?

Because your small intestine is unable to be examined by more traditional methods, a capsule endoscopy may be ordered if your physician needs to evaluate your small intestine. The most common  reasons for doing a capsule endoscopy include bleeding from the small intestine, polyp detection, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease), ulcers, and tumors of the small intestine.

Because capsule endoscopy is a fairly new procedure, it is important to speak with your insurance company to verify it is a covered benefit.

What preparations are required?

Your doctor will have you do a bowel prep/cleansing prior to your examination. Your doctor will provide you with instructions on when to start dietary restrictions and on how to take the bowel prep.

It is important to discuss with your doctor any allergies or medical conditions, such as swallowing disorders, heart or lung disease, presence of a pacemaker or defibrillator, previous abdominal surgery, or previous history of bowel obstruction, inflammatory bowel disease, or adhesions.

Can I take my current medications?

Notify the doctor of all the medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medications. Most medications can be continued as usual, but some medications may need to be adjusted or stopped temporarily prior to the exam. The doctor’s office will discuss any medication changes with you prior to your capsule endoscopy.

What happens during the capsule endoscopy?

A sensor device will be applied to your abdomen with adhesive sleeves (similar to tape). You will swallow the pill-sized capsule endoscope and it will pass naturally through your digestive tract while transmitting video images to a data recorder worn on a belt. You will wear the recorder for approximately eight (8) hours. During this time you will have to avoid vigorous physical activity such as running or jumping. Unless instructed otherwise, you will be able to drink clear liquids after two (2) hours and eat a light meal after four (4) hours following capsule ingestion. Once you have ingested the capsule and until it is excreted, you should not be near an MRI device or schedule an MRI examination.

At the end of the procedure (approximately 8 hours later), you will return to the office and the data recorder is removed. The images will be taken off the recorder and put on a computer for your doctor’s review.

What are the possible complications of capsule endoscopy?

Capsule endoscopy is generally safe when performed by doctors who have been specially trained and are experienced in the procedure. Although complications are uncommon, they do occur and can include:

  • Bowel obstruction due to capsule getting caught in a narrowed spot in the digestive tract
  • Premature disconnection of the system resulting in loss of pictures being sent to recorder

Your doctor will discuss the risks of capsule endoscopy with you. It is important to recognize symptoms of an obstruction early and call your doctor immediately. Signs of an obstruction include unusual bloating, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting. If you develop a fever after the test, have trouble swallowing or experience chest pain, tell your doctor immediately.

Capsule endoscopy may also be called:

  • Capsule enteroscopy
  • Wireless capsule endoscopy