Capsule Endoscopy

1 What is a Capsule Endoscopy?

Capsule endoscopy is a procedure that make use of a tiny wireless camera to take pictures of your digestive tract. A capsule endoscopy camera sits inside a vitamin-sized capsule you swallow.

As the capsule makes its way through your digestive tract, the camera takes thousands of pictures that are transmitted to a recorder that you wear on a belt around your waist.

Capsule endoscopy aids doctors in seeing inside your small intestine. Traditional endoscopy involves passing a long, flexible tube equipped with a video camera down your throat or through your rectum.

Capsule endoscopy has also been approved for the screening of the colon for colon polyps for those for whom a colonoscopy could not be completed. But how and on whom it will be used is still being determined because better alternatives are available.

As technology improves, capsule endoscopy of the colon may be applied more in the future. Capsule endoscopy has also be been approved to make an evaluation of the muscular tube that connects your mouth and your stomach (esophagus) to look for abnormal, enlarged veins (varices). It is rarely used because experience with it is limited and traditional upper endoscopy is widely available.

2 Reasons for Procedure

Your doctor might recommend a capsule endoscopy for the following reasons: 

  • To find the cause of gastrointestinal bleeding. If you have unexplained bleeding in your digestive tract, a capsule endoscopy can help determine the cause.
  • Diagnose inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn's disease. Capsule endoscopy can reveal areas of inflammation in the small intestine. Diagnose cancer. Capsule endoscopy can also be used to determine the presence of tumors in the small intestine or other parts of the digestive tract. 
  • Diagnosed celiac disease. Capsule endoscopy in some cases can be used to diagnose and monitor this immune reaction to eating gluten. Screen for polyps. Individuals who have inherited syndromes that can cause polyps in the small intestine might occasionally undergo capsule endoscopy.
  • Do follow-up testing after X-rays or other imaging tests. If results of an imaging test are unclear or inconclusive, your doctor may recommend a capsule endoscopy to get some more information.

3 Potential Risks

Capsule endoscopy is generally a safe procedure that carries a few risks. However, it is possible for a capsule to become lodged in the digestive tract instead of leaving your body in a bowel movement within several days.

The risk, although small, might be higher in individuals who have a condition, such as a tumor, Crohn's disease or a previous surgery in the area that causes a narrowing (stricture) in the digestive tract.

If you have abdominal pain or you are at a risk of a narrowing of your intestine, your doctor will likely get a CT scan to look for a narrowing before using capsule endoscopy.

Even if the imaging study is negative, there is still a small probability that the capsule could get stuck.

If the bowel has not passed in a bowel movement but is not causing signs and symptoms, your doctor might give the capsule more time to leave your body.

However, a capsule causing signs and symptoms that indicate bowel obstruction must be removed, it can be done either by surgery or through a traditional endoscopy procedure, depending on where the capsule is stuck.

4 Preparing for your Procedure

In order to prepare for your capsule endoscopy, your doctor is probably going to ask you to:

  • Stop eating and drinking for at least 12 hours prior to the procedure. This will make sure that the camera captures clear images of your digestive tract. Stop or delay taking certain medications.
  • In order to keep the medication from interfering with the camera, your doctor might ask you to stop taking certain medications before the procedure. In other cases, will want you to take your medication two hours before and after you swallow the camera capsule.
  • Plan to take it easy for the day. In most cases, you will have the ability to go about your day after you swallow the camera capsule. But you will likely be asked not to do strenuous exercise or heavy lifting. If you have an active job, ask your doctor whether you can resume work the day of the procedure.
  • In some cases, your doctor may ask you to take a laxative before your capsule endoscopy, this is done to flush out your small intestine. This has been shown to improve the quality of the pictures collected by the capsule's camera.

Make sure you follow your doctor's instructions in preparing for your capsule endoscopy. Failure to follow the instructions may mean your capsule endoscopy may need to be rescheduled.

5 What to Expect

Here’s what you can expect before, during, and after your capsule endoscopy procedure.

During capsule endoscopy. On the day of your capsule endoscopy, your health care team will review your procedure. You might be asked to take off your shirt so that adhesive patches can be attached to your abdomen.

Each patch has an antenna with wires that connect to a recorder. Some devices do not require the patches. You wear the recorder on a special belt around your waist.

The camera proceeds to send images to an antenna on your abdomen, which feeds the data to the recorder. The recorder collects and stores the images.

Once the recorder is connected and ready, you will swallow the camera capsule with water. A slippery coating makes it easier to swallow it, you should not be able to feel it. You can go back to our daily life routine.

You can drive, and can be able to go to work, depending on your field of work. Your doctor will discuss restrictions, such as avoiding strenuous activity, such as running and jumping, with you. 

After the capsule endoscopy. Wait for a period of two hours after swallowing the capsule to resume drinking clear liquids. After four hours, you can have a light lunch or a snack unless your doctor tells you not to.

The capsule endoscopy procedure is complete after 8 hours or when you see the camera capsule in the toilet after a bowel movement, whichever comes first.

Remove the patches and the recorder from the body, pack them in a bag and follow your doctor's directions for returning the equipment. You can flush the camera capsule down the toilet.

Your body might expel the capsule with hours or even after several days. Each individual's digestive system is unique.

If you do not see the capsule in the toilet within two weeks, contact your doctor. He or she might order an X-ray to see if your capsule is still inside your body.

6 Procedure Results

The results of a capsule endoscopy procedure will be given by your doctor.

The camera used in capsule endoscopy takes thousands of color photos as it makes its way through your digestive tract.

The images saved on a recorder are transferred to a computer with special software that strings the images together to create a video.

Your doctor watches the video look for abnormalities within your digestive tract.

It might take a few days to a week or longer to receive the results of your capsule endoscopy. Your doctor will then share the results with you.

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