Capsule Endoscopy (Pillcam)

Capsule Endoscopy allows the examination of the lining of the small intestine (the middle part of the gastrointestinal tract, including the duodenum, jejunum, ileum). A pill sized/shaped video capsule, which has its own miniature lens and light source, is used to provide photographs of the lining of the small intestine, which are electronically transmitted and can be viewed on a video monitor.

What preparation is required?
An empty stomach allows for the best and safest examination, so you should have nothing to eat or drink, including water, for approximately 12 hours before the examination. Our staff 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 other implanted electromedical devices, previous abdominal surgery, swallowing problems or previous history of obstructions in the bowel, inflammatory bowel disease or adhesions.

What should you expect during the Capsule Endoscopy procedure?
Our staff expert will apply a sensor device to your abdomen with adhesive sleeves (similar to tape). The capsule endoscope is swallowed and passes naturally though 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.

No sedation is required for the procedure so you will be able to resume your normal daily activities immediately with the exceptions listed below.

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 the Capsule Endoscopy?
You will be able to drink clear liquids after two hours and eat a light meal after four hours following swallowing the capsule, unless you are instructed otherwise. You may drive a car and return to your normal daily activities immediately. You will have to avoid vigorous physical activity such as running or jumping during the study.

We generally can tell you the test results within the week following the procedure; however the results of some tests might take longer.

Are there 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. Potential risks include complications from obstruction. This usually relates to a narrowing (stricture) of the intestine from inflammation, prior surgery or tumor. It is important to recognize early signs of possible complications. If you have evidence of obstruction, such as unusual bloating, swelling, pain and/or vomiting, call your doctor immediately. Also, if you develop a fever after the test, have trouble swallowing or experience increasing chest pain, tell your doctor immediately. Be careful not to prematurely disconnect the system, as this may result in loss of picture (image) acquisition.

What are the reasons for doing the Capsule Endoscopy?
Capsule endoscopy helps your doctor evaluate the small intestine. This part of the bowel cannot be reached b y traditional upper endoscopy (EGD) 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.

Are there alternatives to Capsule Endoscopy?
Capsule Endoscopy has been shown to provide a higher level of accuracy in the diagnosis of small bowel disease when compared with other tests. However, alternatives to Capsule Endoscopy are available. X-rays of the small intestine can be helpful in the diagnosis of diseases of the small intestine. Small bowel endoscopes can be used effectively in diagnosing and even treating small bowel diseases but require sedation and X-ray monitoring of the procedure.

Additional important patient information
Capsule Endoscopy is an extremely worthwhile and safe procedure, which is very well tolerated and is invaluable in the diagnosis and proper management of disorders of the small intestine.

Your doctor’s decision to perform this procedure was based upon his/her assessment of your particular problem. If you have any questions about the procedure or you need a Capsule Endoscopy, do not hesitate to discuss them with your gastroenterologist. Both of you share a common goal – your good health – and it can only be achieved through mutual trust, respect and understanding.

This information is provided as an educational service of Gastrointestinal Associates, P.C. The content is limited and is not a substitute for professional medical care.