Capsule Endoscopy

Patient Information

Patient Information

 What is Capsule Endoscopy?

Capsule Endoscopy, which is a non-invasive procedure, lets your doctor examine the lining of the middle part of your gastrointestinal tract, which includes the three portions of the small intestine (duodenum, jejunum, ileum). Your doctor will give you a pill sized video camera for you to swallow. This camera has its own light source and takes pictures of your small intestine as it passes through. These pictures are sent to a small recording device you have to wear on your body.

Your doctor will be able to view these pictures at a later time and might be able to provide you with useful information regarding your small intestine.


Why is Capsule Endoscopy done?

Capsule endoscopy helps your doctor evaluate the small intestine. This part of the bowel cannot be reached by traditional upper endoscopy or by colonoscopy. The most common reason for doing capsule endoscopy is to search for a cause of bleeding from the small intestine. It may also be useful for detecting polyps, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease), ulcers, and tumors of the small intestine.

Medical benefits will be checked to be sure this test is covered by your insurance company.


How Should I Prepare for the Procedure?
An empty stomach allows for the best and safest examination, so you should have nothing to eat or drink, including water, for approximately twelve hours before the examination. Your doctor will tell you when to start fasting.

Tell your doctor in advance about any medications you take including iron, aspirin, bismuth subsalicylate products and other over-the-counter medications. You might need to adjust your usual dose prior to the examination.

Discuss any allergies to medications as well as medical conditions, such as swallowing disorders and heart or lung disease.

Tell your doctor of the presence of a pacemaker or defibrillator, previous abdominal surgery, or previous history of bowel obstructions in the bowel, inflammatory bowel disease, or adhesions.

Your doctor may ask you to do a bowel prep/cleansing prior to the examination.


What Can I Expect During Capsule Endoscopy?

Your doctor will prepare you for the examination by applying a sensor device to your abdomen with adhesive sleeves (similar to tape). The pill-sized capsule endoscope is swallowed and passes naturally through your digestive tract while transmitting video images to a data recorder worn on your belt for approximately eight hours. At the end of the procedure you will return to the office and the data recorder is removed so that images of your small bowel can be put on a computer screen for physician review.

Most patients consider the test comfortable. The capsule endoscope is about the size of a large pill. After ingesting the capsule and until it is excreted you should not be near an MRI device or schedule an MRI examination.


What Happens After Capsule Endoscopy?

You will be able to drink clear liquids after two hours and eat a light meal after four hours following the capsule ingestion, unless your doctor instructs you otherwise. You will have to avoid vigorous physical activity such as running or jumping during the study. Your doctor generally can tell you the test results within the week following the procedure; however, the results of some tests might take longer.


What are the Possible Complications of Capsule Endoscopy?

Although complications can occur, they are rare when doctors who are specially trained and experienced in this procedure perform the test. There is potential for the capsule to be stuck at a narrowed spot in the digestive tract resulting in bowel obstruction. This usually relates to a stricture (narrowing) of the digestive tract from inflammation, prior surgery, or tumor. If your doctor thinks you are risk for this, a ‘scout’ pill which dissolves will be used first. It’s important to recognize obstruction early. Signs of obstruction include unusual bloating, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting. You should call your doctor immediately for any such concerns. Also, if you develop a fever after the test, have trouble swallowing or experience chest pain, tell your doctor immediately. Be careful not to prematurely disconnect the system as this may result in loss of pictures being sent to your recording device.

Capsule endoscopy may also be called:

  • Capsule enteroscopy
  • Wireless capsule endoscopy

Capsule endoscopy allows for examination of the small intestine, which cannot be easily reached by traditional methods of endoscopy.


How long does the procedure take? 

You will typically spend approximately 30 minutes at your doctor’s office to start the procedure. Once the sensors or sensor belt are placed on your abdomen, the recorder is connected, and you have swallowed the capsule, you can leave. The test can last up to 12 hours. 


What happens after I return the recorder and sensors to my doctor? 

The images captured during your procedure will be downloaded to a computer and your doctor will view them in a color video. Afterwards, you will be contacted with the results. 


Will I feel any pain or discomfort from the capsule? 

No. You should not feel any pain or discomfort when swallowing the PillCam™ SB capsule or while it moves through your GI tract. The capsule is disposable and passes naturally with your bowel movement. 

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