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Capsule Endoscopy

Capsule Endoscopy

Capsule endoscopy utilizes a tiny, wireless camera in order to image a patient’s digestive tract. The camera sits within a pill-sized capsule that you have to swallow. This wireless camera allows the doctor to take thousands of photos of your digestive tract. This has the added benefit of being able to image your intestinal tract, something that traditional endoscopy cannot do.

Crohns Disease 2D human anatomy model
Anterior view, angled to the left hand side, of the gastrointestinal system in a male torso.

Who should undergo Capsule Endoscopy

There are certain medical conditions that benefit from using capsule endoscopy as a diagnostic tool. These medical conditions include:

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Varicose veins in the esophagus
  • Polyps in the small intestine

Sometimes, if the results of another diagnostic test are inconclusive, the doctor might recommend that you undergo capsule endoscopy in order to get more information.

How do I prepare for a capsule endoscopy?

In order to have a clear digestive tract for the camera to go through, you’ll be required to do a food and water fast for a minimum of 12 hours before the procedure. For specific cases, you might require to take a laxative before the procedure in order to ensure that your small intestine is properly flushed. Also, if you are on ongoing medication, your doctor might require you to cease consumption before the procedure.

How to prepare for a capsule endoscopy

Basic Capsule Endoscopy System

What to expect during a capsule endoscopy

You will be expected to have adhesive patches placed onto your torso. These patches contain antennae with wires with a recorder. The recorder around your waist will collect and store the images for the doctor to peruse.

After swallowing the capsule, you’ll be able to return to your daily activities. There will be some slight restrictions on strenuous physical activity, but most activities like going to work will be fine.

Two hours after swallowing the capsule, you’ll be able to resume the consumption of liquids. Four hours later, you’ll be able to have some light food. The procedure will be considered complete after 8 hours post-swallowing the capsule or if you pass the capsule out through a bowel movement. The capsule can be flushed down the toilet and does not need to be retrieved. You will need to return the patches and recorder to the doctor.

Are there any risks involved with capsule endoscopy?

Capsule endoscopy is a relatively safe procedure without many risks. However, there is a small chance that the capsule does not leave your digestive tract within a few days. This risk might be exacerbated in patients that have a preexisting gastrointestinal condition – for example, Crohn’s disease – that causes any form of narrowing of the digestive tract. For such cases, your doctor will generally prescribe a CT scan prior to the procedure in order to ensure there is no serious narrowing.

In cases where the capsule does not leave the body naturally and is potentially causing bowel restrictions, your doctor will need to use an endoscopy procedure or recommend surgery in order to remove the capsule from the body.

capsule endoscopy procedure

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