Capsule endoscopy is a revolutionary medical imaging technology that gives your doctor an inside view of your digestive tract. While it has been used for several years, many people are not yet familiar with capsule endoscopes. In this article, we'll talk about what capsule endoscopies are, how they work, and why they're used.
1. What is capsule endoscopy?
An endoscopy is a medical procedure in which a doctor uses a camera to see inside a patient’s body. Many types of endoscopy use a thin, flexible tube, known as a catheter, attached to a camera. Capsule endoscopy is different in that the patient swallows a “pill” that has a miniature video camera inside it. As the capsule moves through the patient’s gastrointestinal tract, the video camera captures images of the digestive organs, especially the small intestine.
2. Capsule endoscopy has been around for decades
Developed in the 1990s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved capsule endoscopy for use in 2001.
3. Capsule endoscopy is easy for the patient
Also known as wireless capsule endoscopy or video capsule endoscopy, capsule endoscopy is noninvasive, painless, and disposable. The capsule housing is about the size of a large vitamin that a patient can easily swallow without the risk of choking. The capsule moves through the digestive tract comfortably.
4. Capsule endoscopy requires little preparation
The day before the procedure, the patient should maintain a clear liquid diet to help ensure that the small intestine is empty. Taking a laxative solution prior to the procedure helps clear the digestive tract to give the camera a clear view. Patients should not have anything to eat or drink 10 to 12 hours before the procedure.
5. The procedure is simple
At the beginning of the appointment, the doctor will review the procedure with the patient. Next, the patient will be fitted with a recording device that they will wear around their waist throughout the procedure; the recording device will store the images as the capsule moves through the patient’s digestive tract. Some capsule endoscopy devices use a series of electrode patches applied to the patient’s chest and abdomen.
The patient then swallows the capsule with a small amount of water. The patient can then go about their daily activities for the next 8 hours. The doctor will likely recommend that the patient follow certain guidelines, such as:
- Waiting at least 2 hours before consuming clear liquids, such as coffee, tea, or Jell-O
- Waiting at least 4 hours before having a small snack
- Avoiding certain activities, such as strenuous exercise or activities that involve bending, stooping, or sudden, jarring movements
The procedure is over in 8 hours, or when the capsule exits the body through a bowel movement. The patient then returns to the doctor’s office to have the recording device removed, along with any electrodes that may have been placed.
6. The capsule is disposable
Capsules are disposable and safe to flush – no need to retrieve the capsule or return it to the doctor.
7. Capsule endoscopy is versatile
Doctors use capsule endoscopy for a number of applications, such as:
- Determining the source of gastrointestinal bleeding
- Evaluating digestive problems, including Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and ulcerative colitis
- Identifying tumors or polyps
- Looking for enlarged veins or Barrett’s syndrome in the esophagus
Northeast Digestive Can Help
If you're interested in learning more about capsule endoscopies, or if you think you may need one, reach out to Northeast Digestive. Our experienced and knowledgeable team will be happy to answer any of your questions and help you determine if this procedure is right for you. We'll work with you to ensure that you have a comfortable and successful experience, every step of the way. Contact us today to get started.