What is it?

Capsule endoscopy is a noninvasive procedure using a pill-sized camera to diagnose disorders of the esophagus, small intestine, and digestive tract. The miniature video camera, known as an endocapsule, has a biocompatible coating that allows it to be safely swallowed and pass undigested through the intestinal tract. The camera, the size of a large vitamin, transmits images to a video monitor as the capsule passes through the digestive tract.

Benefits & Risks

Capsule endoscopy allows your gastroenterologist to examine areas previously unreachable without major surgery. Now, doctors can diagnose diseases such as Celiac Sprue and Crohn’s disease, identify gastrointestinal bleeding, and even locate tumors and polyps.

Capsule endoscopy is a safe procedure but carries few risks. The endocapsule could lodge into the digestive tract rather than leave your body in a bowel movement. That risk - while small - increases for people with strictures, or narrowing, in the digestive tract caused by Crohn’s disease, previous surgery in the area, or tumors.

Your doctor may suggest allowing more time for the capsule to pass in a bowel movement. If, however, the capsule causes symptoms that indicate a bowel obstruction, it must be removed by a traditional endoscopy or surgery.

What to Expect

Typically, patients undergoing capsule endoscopy will have a preparation that consists of a brief fasting period and a possible bowel prep to cleanse the small intestine before the procedure.

Capsule endoscopy is an outpatient procedure that begins in your doctor’s office. You’ll swallow the endocapsule and wear a small data recorder around your waist during the test. You will be able to drink clear liquids and eat a light meal about two hours after the pill has been swallowed.

Approximately 8 hours later, you will be asked to return to your doctor’s office so the data recorder can be removed, and the images downloaded to a computer for physician viewing. The capsule will then be eliminated from your body normally in your feces during a bowel movement.

Learn more about Capsule Endoscopy

The Pill Camera

In 1981, an Israeli engineer named Dr. Gavriel Iddan began work on designing a disposable pill-sized camera that could be swallowed and would pass directly through the intestine. In 2001, after twenty years of research and development, the FDA approved the Given Diagnostic Imaging System called Capsule Endoscopy.

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