- Written by Los Angeles Colonoscopy
Please note that this is for patient education only. We do not perform capsule endoscopy at the L.A. Endoscopy Center.
What is Capsule Endoscopy?
Capsule Endoscopy is a technique in which the lining of the small intestine is examined using a camera that is inserted inside a capsule. This examination allows visualization of the entire length of the small intestine (duodenum, jejunum, ileum) that has traditionally been difficult to evaluate. During the examiation, you get to swallow a pill sized video camera. This camera takes pictures of your small intestine as it passes through. These pictures are sent to a small recording device you wear during the evaluation.
By examining these pictures after complete passage of the capsule, an assessment of the small intestine is made.
Why Capsule Endoscopy?
Capsule endoscopy permits an evaluation of the small intestine. This part of the gastrointestinal tract is usually not reacheable using a traditional upper endoscopy or colonoscopy. The most common reason for doing capsule endoscopy is to look for a cause of bleeding from the small intestine. It may also be useful for detecting polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers, and tumors of the small intestine.
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.
It is important to notify your physician about any medications that you may be taking including iron, aspirin, bismuth subsalicylate products and other over-the-counter medications. You may even need to adjust your usual dose prior to the examination.
You should also discuss any allergies to medications as well as medical conditions, such as swallowing disorders and heart or lung disease.
If you have a pacemaker or defibrillator, previous abdominal surgery, or previous history of bowel obstructions in the bowel, inflammatory bowel disease, or adhesions, you should inform your physician.
What Can I Expect During Capsule Endoscopy?
Before the examination, you will be given a sensor device to be attached to the abdominal wall. The pill-sized capsule endoscope is swallowed and passes naturally through your digestive tract like you would with any pill. This capsule will be 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 review.
Most patients consider the test comfortable. The capsule endoscope is about the size of a large pill and it is passed naturally and excreted. After ingesting the capsule 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 rarely occur, they are very uncommon. Most common complication occurs when the capsule becomes stuck at a narrowed spot in the intestine, resulting in bowel obsctruction. 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.