A capsule endoscopy exam allows your gastroenterologist to examine parts of the small intestine that cannot be examined through traditional procedures like an upper endoscopy or colonoscopy.
Capsule endoscopy uses a miniature video camera contained in a vitamin-sized disposable capsule, which is swallowed by the patient. As the pill passes through the esophagus, stomach and small intestine the video chip captures images of the GI tract and transmits them to a recording device worn by the patient.
Your gastroenterologist may recommend a capsule endoscopy exam to search for a cause of unexplained anemia, bleeding, diarrhea or abdominal pain. The exam may be used to detect polyps, tumors, or ulcers related to medication or Crohn’s Disease.
The Capsule Endoscopy Procedure
If your gastroenterologist recommends a capsule endoscopy, you will be provided with specific instructions to prepare for the examination.
You will be asked to stop eating or drinking for approximately twelve hours prior to the capsule endoscopy. It is important that you discuss any medical conditions with your physician prior to the exam, including regular medications, allergies, swallowing disorders, abdominal surgery or if you have a pacemaker or defibrillator. You may also be asked to undergo a bowel cleansing prior to the capsule endoscopy.
Capsule endoscopy is usually performed in an outpatient setting. Sensors will be placed around your abdomen and are connected via wires to a recording device that is worn around your waist. You will swallow the capsule with water, and then you will be able to leave the outpatient facility and go about your regular routine. You will likely be asked to record certain activities such as eating and drinking on a form that you will return to your physician.
Your gastroenterologist will provide you with instructions to follow during the course of the examination, including when you will be able to begin eating and what kind of activities you should avoid. You should not do strenuous exercise or heavy lifting during the course of the capsule endoscopy.
After your Capsule Endoscopy
Information from the capsule will be transmitted to the receiver that you wear during the course of the examination. The thousands of images that are recorded will be transferred to a computer so your gastroenterologist can view them. Results will be discussed with you during a follow up appointment.
The capsule will be eliminated from your body during a regular bowel movement and can be safely flushed away. You will not be required to retrieve the device.
Side Effects and Risks
Capsule endoscopy is generally a very safe procedure with few risks. There is a very small chance of the capsule becoming stuck as it moves through your digestive system. This risk is about 1% and may require another procedure to dislodge or remove the capsule.
Detailed information about the capsule endoscopy will be provided by your physician, including benefits, risks and possible side effects or complications so that you can understand all that is involved with the procedure.
For more information please visit the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.