Small Bowel Capsule Endoscopy

Capsule endoscopy is a variant of endoscopy to reach areas of the small intestine that cannot be reached by gastroscopy or colonoscopy. It also is advantageous in preventing discomfort and complications of both the procedures.

The capsule contains a miniature camera that continuously captures images and sends it wirelessly to a recorder worn around the waist. The patient is required to swallow the capsule and wears the recorder throughout the day to record the images transmitted as the capsule passes through the various parts of the gastrointestinal tract. It is usually excreted through the faeces in one or two days.

One of the main advantages of performing capsule endoscopy is that it does not require sedation.

The disadvantage of capsule endoscopy is the inability to perform procedures such as a biopsy for confirmatory diagnosis if required.

This procedure is performed to investigate conditions such as:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Coeliac disease
  • Small bowel tumours

Preparation

Patients are required to start fasting the day before the procedure, as an empty stomach allows optimal viewing conditions. They should also inform the gastroenterologist of any medications they are taking, the presence of a pacemaker, previous abdominal surgery, swallowing problems or previous history of obstructions in the bowel.

After ingesting the capsule and until it is excreted, patients should not have a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) examination or be near an MRI device as these devices generate strong magnetic fields that can cause problems due to the metallic parts of the camera inside the capsule. For the same reason it is strongly advised to avoid being near strong magnetic fields.

The capsule progresses naturally with the bowel movement and does not need to be recovered. There should not be any pain or discomfort during capsule excretion.

Complications

A potential complication of the procedure could be retention of the capsule. It is important to inform the gastroenterologist if there are early signs of possible complications, such as fever and vomiting, trouble swallowing, increasing chest or abdominal pain or vomiting. If you wish to discuss the potential risks or any issues regarding your procedure(s) in more detail, please ask to speak with the gastroenterologist.