Description of procedure
Wireless capsule endoscopy involves swallowing a jelly bean sized camera pill. The pill takes images as it travels through the gut which it transmits to a recorder belt worn by the patient. It is used to examine the small bowel, a part of the bowel which cannot easily be reached by conventional endoscopy. Once the pill is swallowed the patient is able to go about their normal daily activities whilst wearing the recorder belt. Images are recorded for up to 12 hours.
Once the procedure is complete the patient may remove the recorder belt which is then returned to the Endoscopy Department the next day. The capsule is passed in the stool and is disposable.
Indications for wireless capsule endoscopy
Wireless capsule endoscopy is the gold standard method for examining the small bowel. Common indications are to investigate possible bleeding from the small bowel. Capsule endoscopy is also used to assess Crohn’s disease affecting the small bowel.
Will it hurt?
Although the capsule is somewhat large it usually easily swallowed. Once swallowed there is no discomfort unless a very rare complication occurs (see below).
No sedation is required for capsule endoscopy.
From lunch time on the day before the procedure the patient must adopt a liquid diet. They are able to continue drinking throughout. Four hours after the procedure they are able to have a light snack. Eight hours after the procedure they can return to their normal diet. You will be provided will all the information required regarding the preparation in plenty of time before the procedure.
Capsule endoscopy is a very safe procedure. The commonest complication is that the battery of the capsule runs out before the entire small bowel is visualised limiting the completeness of the procedure. A much rarer complication is that of capsule retention (capsule getting stuck). This only occurs if there is an abnormality within the small bowel causing narrowing and occurs in perhaps 1 – 2% of cases. It usually requires removal by endoscopy or surgery.