What is Capsule Endoscopy? | Procedure | Why is Capsule Endoscopy Done and What are its Risks?

Endoscopy is an imaging technique to evaluate the organs and tissues of the body including the gastrointestinal tract (GI).

There are several techniques for endoscopy, and capsule endoscopy is one of them.

What is Capsule Endoscopy?

Capsule Endoscopy is an advanced endoscopy technique that involves a tiny wireless camera that is enclosed in a capsule. This camera is used to take pictures of the digestive tract.(1) The camera is placed inside a vitamin-size capsule and the person is made to swallow it. The capsules travel through the digestive tract and take thousand of pictures that are transmitted to a recorder that the person is made to wear on the belt around the waist.

Capsule Endoscopy enables the doctor to get a view of the small intestine that is otherwise not easily reachable in the traditional endoscopic procedures.

Capsule Endoscopy Procedure: How is it Done?

Before going ahead with the Capsule Endoscopy procedure the doctor informs about the whole process so that you know what to expect with it. You are made to wear a recording device around the waist that records the pictures that the capsule takes while going through the GI tract.

Electrode patches are attached to the chest and abdomen that are connected with the recording device.

You are made to swallow the capsule, the size of a vitamin pill with little water. You can then go ahead with the daily activities. A few guidelines are given by the doctor that you need to follow as the capsule passes through your system that is as follows:

  • Wait for at least 2 hours before drinking water
  • For even a small snack you need to wait for at least 4 hours
  • Any kind of strenuous activity that involves sudden and jarring movements such as bending and jumping should be avoided

After the procedure, the doctor collects the recording device and transfers the images to a computer. There is specialized software that produces a video from the images, collected by the camera. The doctor looks at the video to look for the abnormality.

The Capsule Endoscopy procedure is complete after 8 hours or when the capsule passes out through bowel.(2) In any of the cases, you need to visit the doctor to get the electrode and the device removed.

The capsules used are disposable and can be easily flushed in the toilet.

Contact the doctor if several days have passed and the capsule hasn’t passed out yet. An X-ray might be required to view the capsule.

Why Is Capsule Endoscopy Done?

Capsule endoscopy procedure is recommended in case of the following conditions:

The Risks Associated With Capsule Endoscopy

Capsule endoscopy is a safe procedure with a minimal chance of capsule getting stuck in the GI tract. This happens due to the narrowing of the GI tract that can be due to:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis(3)
  • Large polyp or tumor
  • Due to any previous surgery or injury
  • A stuck capsule can lead to abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. In some cases, it needs to be surgically removed.

Capsule endoscopy is not recommended for those with the following conditions:

Swallowing Disorders: Such people would find it difficult to swallow the capsule and there may be a risk of inhaling it.

Pregnancy: The safety of conducting Capsule Endoscopy procedure during pregnancy is not yet known. It is therefore not recommended at this time.

Pacemakers and Defibrillators: These devices may cause interference between the capsule and the recording devices.

Capsule endoscopy is a safe procedure and the risks are also minimal. The chances of capsule getting stuck in the GI tract are also very rare. The procedure is helpful in viewing the inside of the small intestine that is not reached with the traditional method.

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