Small Bowel Capsule
What is capsule endoscopy?
Capsule endoscopy allows an experienced gastroenterologists like our doctors to examine the lining of your small bowel. Unlike a colonoscopy or upper endoscopy, a capsule endoscopy allows the doctor to visually check the middle of your digestive tract, including the three portions of the small intestine (duodenum, jejunum and ileum). No other minimally invasive procedure provides so much information. The staff at our practice will give you a pill-sized video camera to swallow. This tiny camera has its own light source, battery and radio transmitter so it takes video images of your small intestine as it passes through.
This camera takes two pictures per second for an eight hour time period. These images are sent to a small recording device that is worn on the waist of the patient who is undergoing capsule endoscopy. The patient can freely move during the examination. At the end of the procedure (after 8 hours), you return to the office and the data recorder and sensor device will be removed. The doctor then downloads these images later and interprets them into useful information about your small intestine. The capsule normally passes into the toilet and does not need to be retrieved.
Why You May Need Capsule Endoscopy
Capsule endoscopy helps to evaluate the health of your small intestine. It can help determine the cause for symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, bleeding or iron deficiency anemia. Several gastrointestinal disorders including bleeding, polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers, and tumors can originate there. Capsule endoscopy is the only way to reach this part of your digestive tract without surgery or other invasive procedure. The most common reason for a capsule endoscopy is to search for a source of bleeding (Arteriovenous malformations, ulcers, etc) if the doctor believes it originates in your small intestine. The procedure also is useful for detecting signs of inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn’s disease), ulcers and tumors.
Capsule Endoscopy Preparations
You will need to do a bowel preparation prior to your examination to improve the quality of the images obtained during the capsule endoscopy. Please refer to the small bowel capsule instructions for full information regarding the preparation prior to the exam.
Recovering from a Capsule Endoscopy
You can drink clear liquids two hours after ingesting the capsule and eat a light meal four hours after. You should avoid vigorous physical activity, such as running or jumping, during the course of the exam — that is, for the eight hours the capsule is actively recording.
After you ingest the capsule — and until you pass it, you should not go near an MRI device. It will show up on an X-ray, which is harmless, but within the powerful magnets of an MRI machine, the capsule could pose a hazard.
Our doctors can explain the test results to you within the week of the procedure; however, the results of some tests might take longer.
Capsule Endoscopy Complications
Although complications can occur, they are rare when the test is conducted by specially trained and experienced gastroenterologist. However, there can be limitations and complication with its use which may include the following:
- Bowel obstruction-The most serious complication is if the capsule gets stuck inside your digestive tract in an area of narrowing resulting in a bowel obstruction which may require surgical removal. This can happen in a stricture, or narrowing, of your digestive tract from inflammation, prior surgery or tumor. It’s important to recognize the obstruction early from symptoms such as unusual bloating, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting. Other complications include developing a fever after the test, having trouble swallowing or experiencing chest pain. Call your doctor immediately if you have any such symptoms.
- Slow transit- Sometimes the capsule moves slowly through the bowel and does not examine the entire small bowel before the battery dies
- Missed Lesions- There can be irregularities in areas of the small intestine that can be missed either because of inconclusive imaging or rapid transit
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not definitive medical advice. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only trained, experienced physicians like our doctors can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.