Small Bowel Capsule Endoscopy
Capsule endoscopy is a procedure that uses a tiny wireless camera to take pictures of your digestive tract. A capsule endoscopy camera sits inside a vitamin-size capsule you swallow. As the capsule travels through your digestive tract, the camera takes thousands of picture that are transmitted to a recorder you wear on a belt around your waist. Capsule endoscopy helps doctors see inside your small intestine – an area that isn’t easily reached with more-traditional endoscopy procedures. Traditional endoscopy involves passing a long, flexible tube equipped with a video camera down your throat or through your rectum.
Why You May Need …
- You will swallow the capsule at your doctor’s office and be given all the information you need for the test.
- The capsule is the size of a large pill — just over 1-inch long and less than ½-inch wide.
- Once swallowed, it travels through the digestive system, sending images to a device worn around your waist that saves them.
- The capsule will not be absorbed or digested, but it will move through your digestive system and leave through a bowel movement. You may or may not see it in the toilet bowl. You do not need to retrieve or return the capsule to your doctor.
- Each capsule is designed for a single use and will not harm the environment or your household plumbing.
- You will be awake and active during this test as the capsule moves through your digestive system, though you will not feel it.
Before for your capsule endoscopy, your doctor is likely to ask that you take steps to prepare yourself. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions in preparing for your capsule endoscopy. Failure to follow the directions may mean that your capsule endoscopy has to be rescheduled.
Food and medications
To help the camera capture clear images of your digestive tract, you’ll be asked to stop eating and drinking at least 12 hours before the procedure. In some cases, your doctor may ask you to take a laxative before your capsule endoscopy to flush out your small intestine. This has been shown to improve the quality of the pictures collected by the capsule’s camera.
To keep medication from interfering with the camera, your doctor might ask you not to take certain medications before the procedure.
In most cases, you’ll be able to go about your day after you swallow the camera capsule. But you’ll likely be asked not to do strenuous exercise or heavy lifting. If you have an active job, ask your doctor whether you can go back to work on the day of your capsule endoscopy.
About the Procedure
Before the procedure
On the day of your capsule endoscopy, your health care team will review the procedure. You might be asked to remove your shirt so that adhesive patches can be attached to your abdomen. Each patch contains an antenna with wires that connect to a recorder. Some devices don’t require the patches.
You wear the recorder on a special belt around your waist. The camera sends images to the antenna patches on your abdomen, which feed the data to the recorder. The recorder collects and stores the images.
During the procedure
Once the recorder is connected and ready, you swallow the camera capsule with water. A slippery coating makes it easier to swallow. Once you swallow it, you shouldn’t be able to feel it.
You’ll then go about your day. You can drive, and you might be able to go to work, depending on your job. Your doctor will discuss restrictions — for example, avoiding strenuous activity, such as running and jumping — with you.
After the procedure
Wait two hours after you swallow the capsule to resume drinking clear liquids. After four hours, you can have a light lunch or a snack unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
The capsule endoscopy procedure is complete after eight hours or when you see the camera capsule in the toilet after a bowel movement, whichever comes first. Remove the patches and the recorder from your body, pack them in a bag and follow your doctor’s instructions for returning the equipment. You can flush the camera capsule down the toilet.
Once the procedure is finished, your body might expel the camera capsule within hours or after several days. Each person’s digestive system is different. If you don’t see the capsule in the toilet within two weeks, contact your doctor. Your doctor might order an X-ray to see if the capsule is still in your body.
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. 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.