Capsule endoscopy

Capsule endoscopy is an FDA-approved procedure that allows your GHP physician to examine the lining of the middle part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract that is made up of the three parts of the small intestine (duodenum, jejunum and ileum). This procedure helps to evaluate this part of the bowel, which cannot be reached by a standard endoscope or colonoscope. The most common reason for capsule endoscopy is to search for a cause of bleeding in this area. It is also used to detect polyps, tumors, ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease of the small intestine.

For a capsule endoscopy, the patient will swallow a multivitamin-sized pill containing a video camera, a light source and a battery. The camera will take two to three pictures per second for up to 12 hours as the pill travels through the patient’s GI tract. The pictures are sent to a small recording device worn throughout the procedure. The device saves the color photos, which are transferred to a computer with special software that strings the images together into a video.

How Do You Prepare for Capsule Endoscopy?

Before undergoing a capsule endoscopy, your GHP physician will go over some pre-operative instructions that you will need to follow in the days before your procedure. Following these instructions is essential to limit surgery risks and provide the best results.

  • Discuss your medical history and medications with your GHP physician. Please tell them and their staff about any previous abdominal surgery or previous history of bowel obstructions, adhesions or history of inflammatory bowel disease. In addition, your GHP physician asks that you provide him or his staff with a list of medications to which you are allergic.
  • Use our cleansing routine the day before. your GHP physician’s office will prescribe a cleansing routine (or “prep”), which consists of a powerful liquid laxative that is to be taken the day before the procedure in order to prepare your bowels. This cleansing routine is the MOST IMPORTANT part of the procedure. your GHP physician’s office will give you further instructions on following this cleansing routine and other details to follow on the day before the procedure. These instructions include following a clear liquid diet the day before the procedure, and drinking lots of liquids.

What Happens During a Capsule Endoscopy?

Capsule endoscopy is an outpatient procedure performed at Jewish Hospital in downtown Louisville. After going through registration by the staff, the patient will swallow the pill-sized capsule camera. The monitor will be attached to record images obtained. Your GHP physician will read the study and report the findings as soon as possible, though sometimes this process can take one to two weeks.

What Should You Expect after the Procedure?

Usually, two hours after the ingesting the pill, the patient is able to drink clear liquids. Four hours after ingestion, they may eat a light meal. The patient must avoid vigorous physical activity during the study. After approximately eight hours, the data recorder that was worn can be returned to the endoscopy unit at the hospital.

Possible Complications and Risks

There is potential for the capsule to become stuck at a narrowed part of the small intestine, resulting in a bowel obstruction. This usually relates to a stricture (narrowing) of the small intestine from inflammation, prior surgery or a tumor. The overall risk of this occurring is 3 percent. It’s important to recognize an obstruction early and call Gastroenterology Health Partners’ office if you have unusual abdominal pain, nausea and/or vomiting.

Disclaimer: This information is intended to provide general guidance and does not provide definitive medical advice. It is not a definitive basis for diagnosis or treatment in any particular case. This material does not cover all information and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. It is important that you consult your doctor regarding your specific condition, contraindications and potential complications.