Capsule Endoscopy examines the lining of the middle part of the gastrointestinal tract, which includes the three portions of the small intestine (duodenum, jejunum, ileum). This part of the bowel cannot be reached by traditional upper endoscopy or by colonoscopy.
The most common reason for doing capsule endoscopy is to search for a cause of bleeding from the small intestine. It may also be useful for detecting polyps, abnormal blood vessels, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease), ulcers, and tumors of the small intestine.
The patient is given a bowel cleansing preparation and should be fasting for at least 6 hours prior to swallowing the capsule.
The pill-sized capsule is swallowed and passes naturally through the digestive tract while transmitting video images to a data recorder for approximately eight hours. The patient carries on his daily activities and at the end of the procedure returns to have the data recorder removed so that the images can be put on a computer screen for physician review. The capsule is later on discarded with the stools.
Complications are rare. There is potential for the capsule to be stuck at a narrowed spot in the digestive tract resulting in bowel obstruction and secondary need for surgery. This usually relates to a stricture (narrowing) of the digestive tract from inflammation, prior surgery, or tumor. Signs of obstruction include unusual bloating, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting.