Capsule Endoscopy

Capsule Endoscopy

Capsule endoscopy is used to examine the lining in the gastrointestinal tract for any abnormalities. It is helpful in taking pictures of the digestive tract including esophagus, stomach and especially small intestine. Small intestine is a difficult area to reach through conventional endoscopy and other imaging tests as it lies between the stomach and large intestine. The capsule contains a camera, a bulb, battery and a transmitter. The camera takes thousands of pictures of the digestive tract during its passage through the digestive tract and transmits it to a recorder worn as a belt on the waist for about 24 hours to store the images.

The common diseases of small intestine that are diagnosed through capsule endoscopy are:

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Tumors in the small intestine
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease and polyps of the small intestine

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.

  • The doctor or nurse will give you a list of food and drink items you have to avoid before the capsule endoscopy. Fast for 12 hours. Delay or not to take any medicines
  • You will also have to ensure that your bowels are completely clean. For this you might either be given cleansing liquids or oral laxatives.

Steps of the capsule endoscopy process include:

  • You will be asked to swallow a very large capsule. This capsule has one or two video cameras (chips), a light bulb, a battery and a radio transmitter embedded in it.
  • You will be asked to wear a radio receiver to receive the signals from the capsule. This receiver is to be worn on the waist.
  • As the capsule passes through the digestive tract, it continuously takes photographs.
  • These photographs are transmitted via the radio transmitter.
  • The radio receiver receives these signals.
  • After 24 hours, the images are downloaded from the receiver for viewing by the doctor.
  • The capsule is usually flushed out with the stools.

If you do not see the capsule in the stool, please contact your doctor. Your doctor may take few days to a week to analyze the video and would tell you the results of the test.

As with any procedure, capsule endoscopy involves certain risks and potential complications. It is a non-invasive and safe procedure. The only risk is that at times the capsule gets stuck in the digestive tract and doesn’t come out even after two weeks. This is not a serious risk. The doctor will wait for some more time for it to come out on its own but if it causes bowel obstruction it is taken out through conventional endoscopy or last resort is surgery.

Capsule endoscopy is a best way to look inside the small intestine. But it cannot allow for any treatment of a condition or disease.

Capsule endoscopy also has its limitations. They are:

  • The pictures captured could be blurred as the capsule may move rapidly in the system. This could lead to some abnormalities being missed.
  • Sometimes the capsule may move very slowly. This results in the battery being drained out before the entire digestive system is photographed.
  • The capsule itself can become an obstruction in the small intestine if the intestine has become narrow due to tumors or scarring.

Time consuming process of viewing thousands of photographs by the doctor.