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Capsule endoscopy

This page is about having a capsule endoscopy, which is a test that looks at the inside of your bowel. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what’s on this page

A capsule endoscopy is a way of looking at the parts of the bowel that a normal endoscopy or colonoscopy can’t reach. To have the test you swallow a pill which contains a tiny, wireless camera. The camera takes lots of photographs on its way through your gut.

The camera transmits the pictures wirelessly to a data recorder that you wear around your waist for about 8 to 10 hours. Once the camera and data recorder are in place you can leave the hospital. The nurse will give you instructions about when you can have a drink and a light snack.

You return the data recorder to the hospital, usually the following day.
A technician downloads the pictures to a computer and a doctor checks them. The capsule is disposable and you pass it naturally when you go to the toilet.

Getting your results

The time it takes for the test results to come through can vary but it may take up to a couple of weeks.

 

What is a capsule endoscopy?

A capsule endoscopy is a fairly new test to look at the inside of your small bowel. It is not available at all hospitals. You may need to travel to a specialist centre to have it.

You swallow a small disposable camera which is inside a capsule. The capsule is the size of a large pill. The camera takes thousands of pictures as it travels along your gut. The pictures are transmitted wirelessly to a data recorder that you wear on a belt around your waist.

 

Why you may have a capsule endoscopy

You may have this type of test if you doctor needs to look closely at the inside of your small bowel (jejunum and ileum). It examines the part of the bowel that other tests such as endoscopy or colonoscopy may not always reach.

Diagram showing the parts of the small bowel

 

Before the test

Before the test, your nurse will give you some medicine to empty your bowel. Usually you take one dose of medicine the day before the test and a second dose on the morning of the test. If you take iron tablets your nurse will ask you to stop taking them one week before the test.

You will need to

  • Not eat any solid food after lunch on the day before the test
  • Drink only clear fluids for the rest of the day before the test
  • Not eat or drink anything on the day of the test

You will go to the outpatient department or the endoscopy unit on the morning of the test. A nurse or doctor will explain the procedure to you and will ask you to sign a consent form.

 

Having a capsule endoscopy

You have the test in the outpatient department or endoscopy unit. You will be at the hospital for about an hour. First a technician attaches a data recorder to a belt around your waist.

Then a nurse, doctor or technician will ask you to swallow the camera which is inside a capsule. This is about the size of a large vitamin pill. You swallow it with some water.

The nurse will give you instructions about when you can drink again and when you can have a light snack. Usually you should not eat or drink for 2 hours after the start of the test. Then you can drink clear fluids. After 4 hours you can have a light snack. And then you shouldn’t eat anything until after the test has finished. During the test you should avoid physical exercise that makes you sweaty and also avoid bending or stooping.

You can then leave the hospital. The camera takes pictures for about 8 to 10 hours and switches itself off. As it passes through the gut the camera sends all the photos that it takes to the data recorder. The nurse may ask you to check that the blue light is flashing on the data recorder.

 

After capsule endoscopy

You will need to return the data recorder to the hospital as soon as possible, usually the morning after the test. A technician downloads the pictures from the data monitor to a computer. A doctor then looks at the pictures.

The camera is disposable and you will pass it naturally in your poo (stools) when you go to the toilet.

Very rarely the capsule may get stuck inside your body. If you are worried that you have not passed the capsule tell your doctor. They may take an X-ray to check if it is still there.

 

The results

It may take some days or up to 2 weeks for the medical team to look at all the pictures. They will send the results to your own doctor.

If you have not heard about the result within a couple of weeks after your test, you can ring your doctor’s secretary to check if they are back.

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Updated: 19 February 2016