Capsule Endoscopy is a diagnostic tool helpful in taking pictures of the digestive tract including oesophagus, stomach and especially small intestine. The small intestine is difficult to reach through conventional endoscopy and other imaging tests as it lies between the stomach and large intestine. In capsule endoscopy the patient swallows a capsule the size of a large vitamin pill. The capsule has a slippery coating making it easier to swallow. This capsule contains a camera, a bulb, battery and a transmitter. The camera takes thousands of pictures during its passage through the digestive tract and transmits it to a recorder. The recorder is worn as a belt on the waist for about 10 hours to store the images. These images are then transferred to a computer which converts them into a video. The capsule is passed out of the body with stool and can be flushed away.
The common diseases of small intestine that are diagnosed through capsule endoscopy are:
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Tumours in the small intestine
- Crohn’s disease
It may also be used for celiac disease and polyps of the small intestine.
Before the capsule endoscopy you are required to
- Fast for 12 hours
- Delay or not to take any medicines
It is very important to follow your doctor’s instructions before and after the procedure otherwise the test may need to be repeated in case the images are not clear.
After swallowing the capsule
- You are allowed to go home or for work but any strenuous activity should be avoided that day as it may hinder proper recording by the recorder.
- Can drink clear fluids after 2 hours
- Can have light lunch after 4 hours.
The recorder can be removed and packed if the capsule comes out in the stool or 8 hours after swallowing the capsule whichever is earlier. If you do not see the capsule in the stool please contact your doctor.
Your doctor will request a post procedure consult 1-2 weeks later to tell you the results of the test.
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Capsule endoscopy is a very safe procedure. Complications of capsule endoscopy are very infrequent. The capsule has a gel coating which makes it easy to swallow. Less than 1 patient in 100 has difficulty swallowing the capsule. Abdominal pain or nausea after swallowing the capsule is extremely rare and should be reported immediately.
Approximately 1 in 100 patients retain the capsule in the bowel. This may occur if the bowel is narrowed or has some other unusual anatomy. Usually the capsule will eventually pass. On rare occasions it will need to be removed endoscopically or surgically. The obstructing lesion can be corrected at the same time. If bowel narrowing is suspected your doctor may suggest an initial trial with a dissolvable (Patency) capsule.
On the day of the test, approximately 1 in 10 patients may have a slow small bowel transit and the capsule may not be seen to reach the large bowel on the capsule endoscopy recording. An abdominal X-ray will then be arranged to check that the capsule has passed out of the bowel.