Capsule Endoscopy

A capsule endoscopy uses a pill sized video camera that you swallow to examine the small intestine.  This camera continuously takes pictures as it passes through your digestive tract, saving them to a small recording device for later evaluation.

Why is a capsule endoscopy done?

The procedure allows your doctor to evaluate the small intestine, since this particular part of the bowel cannot be assessed with a colonoscopy or upper endoscopy. It can be utilized for finding the cause of a bleed, or detecting polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers, or tumors.

What happens during a capsule endoscopy?

As the process itself it can be compared to merely swallowing a large pill, a capsule endoscopy is typically well-tolerated. You will arrive at the office for a morning appointment, where a nurse specializing in this procedure will walk you through the process. They will use medical tape to attach a sensor device to your abdomen, and give you a data recorder to be holstered on your side for the remainder of the test. After swallowing the capsule, you are free to leave the office for the eight hour exam period, but a restricted diet is required and you will be asked to avoid rigorous physical activity. You will return the data recorder and sensors at the end of the day so that your doctor can review the images. The capsule will eventually pass during a bowel movement, and you are not required to return it.

What preparation is required?

An empty stomach allows for the best and safest examination, so you will begin preparation with a restricted diet and may not be able to take anything by mouth in the hours leading up to your procedure. The preparation may also require the consumption of an over the counter bowel cleansing solution. You should be able to resume the restricted diet at least two hours after ingesting the capsule. Your doctor will give you exact instructions on how to prepare for the procedure.

What happens after a capsule endoscopy?

Although determined on a case-by-case basis, you should be able to resume to your normal diet and activities following the examination. Once the doctor reviews the images obtained during the capsule endoscopy, you will be contacted regarding the findings.

What are the possible complications of a capsule endoscopy?

Capsule endoscopy is generally considered very safe. Although they are rare, it’s important to recognize signs of complication. It is possible for the capsule to become stuck in the digestive tract and cause a bowel obstruction, however this generally stems from a pre-existing condition such as inflammation, prior surgery, or a tumor. Contact your doctor if you develop unusual bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, difficulty swallowing, or chest pain, as these may be signs of a bowel obstruction.