Capsule endoscopy is a diagnostic procedure that gastroenterologists use to see your digestive tract. This state-of-the-art tool allows doctors to diagnose and treat disorders of the small intestines. Early detection is important to the treatment of many GI disorders, so effective diagnostic procedures like capsule endoscopy are very important tools.
Cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001, capsule endoscopy requires patients to simply swallow a pill that has a tiny wireless camera. It passes through the intestines by gravity. The patient also wears a belt with a receiver that captures the thousands of images taken of your small intestines that your doctor will later review.
How Does the Capsule Work?
Capsule endoscopy is an innovative, non-invasive method to visualize problems of the small intestine. The capsule measures 1.1 cm x 2.6 cm, and it contains one or two video chips (cameras), a light bulb, a battery, and a radio transmitter. Patients schedule an appointment with one of our GI doctors to show up to their office and swallow the capsule.
As the capsule travels through your digestive tract, it rapidly takes thousands of photographs, which are subsequently transmitted to a recorder that you wear on a belt around your waist. The camera transmits two images per second. Over an eight-hour period, the capsule generates more than 50,000 pictures of the small intestine.
At the end of the procedure, about 8 hours later, patients return to our offices so the photographs can be downloaded from the receiver into a computer. Our gastroenterologists review these images so that they can make their diagnosis.
Finally, the capsule is passed by the patient into the toilet and flushed away.
Conditions Diagnosed Using Capsule Endoscopy
The following diseases and conditions can be diagnoses with capsule endoscopy:
- Angiodysplasias – The most common type of vascular lesion of the GI tract that can cause GI bleeding.
- Small intestinal tumors – Lymphoma, carcinoid tumor, etc. They can be benign or malignant.
- Crohn’s disease – A chronic inflammatory bowel disease involving inflammation in the digestive or GI tract.
- Celiac disease and other malabsorbtion disorders – An autoimmune disorder in which the ingestion of gluten causes damage to the small intestine.
- Peptic ulcers – Painful, open sores that can form in the inside lining of the stomach or upper portion of the small intestine.
- Iron deficiency anemia – When the blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells due to insufficient iron. If your doctor suspects you might be bleeding internally, causing the anemia, capsule endoscopy can help find the source of bleeding.
- Intestinal tract bleeding – Any type of bleeding that starts in the GI tract. It is a symptom of a disease or condition.
Advantages of a Capsule Endoscopy
Being about the size of a vitamin, the capsule endoscopy is very small and easily swallowed. It is much less invasive than a traditional endoscopy, which involves the doctor inserting a tube with a camera on the end into the anus or esophagus while the patient is under sedation.
With a capsule endoscopy, you do not have to be sedated and there is no down time required. You can continue with your regular daily activities while the capsule is in your system, but you will want to avoid intense physical exercise for the time being.
Capsule endoscopy allows doctors to see the entire small intestine, which cannot be done with a traditional endoscopy or colonoscopy. The tiny capsule also provides more detailed images than other traditional treatments and more tissue coverage. Doctors can get a clear view of the entire small intestine to accurately diagnose the source of a particular digestive or GI health concern, and know what treatments need to happen next.
Preparing for a Capsule Endoscopy
Your capsule endoscopy preparation is somewhat similar but much easier than that of a colonoscopy. For the best results during capsule endoscopy procedures and other endoscopic exams, patients should begin fasting around midnight on the day before the procedure, and take laxatives to clear the intestines of residual food and bacterial debris. Other than that, you need only the ability to swallow a vitamin-sized pill when you show up to your capsule endoscopy appointment.
You may need to adjust the dosage of any medications you’re taking before the procedure, so tell your doctor about any medications. Also, discuss with your doctor any medical conditions or allergies to medications. Tell your doctor if you have a pacemaker, have had abdominal surgery, or have a history of bowel obstructions in the bowel, inflammatory bowel disease, or adhesions.
Is the Capsule Endoscopy Covered by Insurance?
Almost all insurance carriers classify capsule endoscopy as a necessary diagnostic tool for patients. If our gastroenterologists believe that capsule endoscopy is a necessary for you to undergo, our helpful office staff will submit for prior authorization from your insurance carrier. If your insurance does not cover the procedure or you don’t have insurance, the office staff will offer cash pricing options for you.
What to Expect After a Capsule Endoscopy
After swallowing the capsule endoscopy and having the sensor belt set up, patients can return home or to work immediately. Patients will be able to drink clear liquids 2 hours following the procedure, and can eat a light meal 4 hours after the procedure.
The capsule will naturally pass through the body within 24-72 hours, and once it has been excreted, you will return to the doctor’s office with the belt so he or she can review the data. A diagnosis can be given as quickly as 20-25 minutes after the doctor downloads the data. However, the results may take longer, and can sometimes take up to a week following the data downloading.
Is Capsule Endoscopy Safe?
Although complications with the capsule endoscopy can occur, they are rare. The most common risks with this procedure are as follows:
- Bowel obstruction, in which the capsule becomes stuck in a narrow part in the digestive tract.
- Symptoms of bowel obstruction include abnormal bloating, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting.
- Capsule retention, when the capsule stays in the digestive tract for more than two weeks.
- Capsule aspiration, when the capsule goes down the wrong pipe into the airways instead of the esophagus. This is a rare but serious complication.
- Skin irritation, which is low risk and involves redness that is treated topically.
It’s important to note that the capsule endoscopy cannot perform biopsies, so if the capsule detects an abnormality, an additional procedure, usually a traditional endoscopy, is required.
Contact One of Our Gastroenterologists
La Peer Health Systems should be your first choice when looking for more information about capsule endoscopy Los Angeles. If you are interested in learning more about capsule endoscopy or any of the other procedures we offer in the La Peer Health Systems Digestive Disease Program, please feel free to contact us. You may also reach us by phone at (855) 360-9119, just ask to speak with someone from the Department of Gastroenterology, or contact our Beverly Hills GI doctors.
Next, read about Colonoscopy.