Capsule endoscopy allows digestive doctors to examine part of your digestive tract without the need for sedation or a lengthy, more invasive procedure. You’ll simply swallow a vitamin-sized capsule, sometimes known as a “pill cam,” and wear a special belt fitted with a recorder to create images of your small intestine.
PillCam SB is the most widely used, non-invasive tool for viewing the small bowel to detect and monitor abnormalities. By swallowing a vitamin-sized capsule, your provider can detect lesions, tumors, ulcers as well as potential sources of bleeding and Crohn’s disease.
What to Expect
First, your health provider will fit you with a sensor belt that you will wear over your clothing. Next, you will swallow the capsule with a glass of water. You can then resume most of your daily activities.
Your healthcare provider will schedule an appointment for you to return to your doctor’s office with the sensor belt and recorder. Your digestive doctor can then download the information and review the images.
You will pass the capsule naturally with a bowel movement, and usually within a 24- to 72-hour period.
Your digestive doctor will provide you with written instructions before the examination. Specific instructions may vary according to your individual needs, but in general, preparation focuses on maintaining
To create the best images possible, your stomach and small intestine will need to be empty prior to beginning capsule endoscopy. To ensure that your stomach and small intestine are empty, you will need to begin a liquid diet the day before the examination and have nothing to eat or drink 10 hours before capsule endoscopy.
You will receive written preparation instructions before the examination. In general, an empty stomach creates the best images, so you will need to begin a liquid diet the day prior to your capsule endoscopy appointment. You should have nothing to eat or drink for approximately 10 hours before your procedure.
On the day of the procedure, male patients need to shave their abdomen six inches above and below their navel. Women may need to shave their upper pelvis area. The gastroenterology team performing the test will advise patients on the specifics of shaving.
Click here for Northeast Digestive Health Center's complete PillCam prep instructions.
Frequently Asked Questions about Capsule Endoscopy
Why do doctors perform capsule endoscopy?
Capsule endoscopy can help doctors diagnose recurrent or persistent digestive problems when other diagnostic tests have failed to determine the cause of symptoms, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, anemia, or bleeding. This procedure can also help doctors evaluate the extent to which the small intestine is affected, monitor the effects of treatment, or measure how long it takes for food to pass through the small intestine.
Do I need to fast before capsule endoscopy?
Yes, your stomach will need to be empty to allow your doctor to visualize your digestive tract during capsule endoscopy.
Will I need to shave before capsule endoscopy?
Yes, the belt that records the video images has small sensors, which attach to your skin. Males must shave their stomach and chest area; all patients must shave their upper pelvis area.
Do I need to fast while I’m wearing the recorder?
No – about two hours after swallowing the capsule, you can have clear liquids. You may have a light snack four hours after the procedure unless your doctor says otherwise. You are normally allowed to return to a regular diet after 8 hours.
What happens to the capsule?
The capsule passes through your digestive tract and eventually exits your body during a bowel movement. If you cannot verify that you have passed the capsule in a bowel movement, your doctor may order an abdominal x-ray to be sure that it has left your body. Do not have an MRI until you have verified the passage of the capsule. The capsule is disposable and should not be returned to the doctor’s office.