Capsule Endoscopy (pill-cam)

What is a capsule endoscopy?

A capsule endoscopy (also called a pill-cam) is a non-invasive test used to examine the entire lining of the small intestine. It involves swallowing a small plastic ‘pill’ that contains a tiny camera, which takes photos as it travels through your stomach and small intestine. The images are wirelessly transmitted to a data recorder that your doctor then uses to review the study.

Why is a capsule endoscopy done?

A capsule endoscopy is usually performed to try and identify the cause and location of bleeding within the small intestine. It can also be used to look for inflammation, ulcers and tumours within the small intestine.

How do I prepare for a capsule endoscopy?

A capsule endoscopy requires very little preparation. To ensure adequate views it is essential that your stomach is completely empty prior to the procedure. It is therefore important that you have only a light dinner the night before and then nothing to eat or drink for 8 hours prior to your capsule endoscopy.

What will happen on the day?

After registering at reception you will be fitted with a recording belt and the data recorder (worn in a small satchel across the shoulder). You will then swallow the capsule with a small glass of water. You can then go about your normal activities for the rest of the day before returning 8 hours later to have the data recorder removed.

You are allowed to drink clear liquids 2 hours after swallowing the capsule, and allowed to eat food 4 hours after swallowing the capsule.

What happens after my capsule endoscopy?

After returning to have the data recorder and belt removed 8 hours after swallowing the capsule, your procedure is complete. The capsule is single use only and does not need to be retrieved. The capsule usually passes naturally in your stool after 1-2 days and can be safely flushed down the toilet.

Your study will be downloaded onto a computer and interpreted by your doctor who will then provide a recommendation about further treatment.

Are there any risks or side-effects?

Capsule endoscopy is a very safe procedure and is usually very well tolerated by most patients. As the capsule contains a special coating, it is easy to swallow and patients rarely experience symptoms.

In approximately 1 in 100 people the capsule is ‘retained’, meaning it does not pass completely through the small intestine. This is usually due to an abnormal narrowing or blockage within the intestine. If this occurs the capsule can be removed during an endoscopy procedure or surgically, which also allows for treatment of the blockage at the same time. If you do have a history bowel obstruction, please let us know, and a dissolvable capsule will be used prior to the pill cam to minimize the risk of a ‘retained’ pillcam

In a small proportion of patients the capsule is slow to pass through the small intestine and an x-ray is requested after 2 days to check that the capsule has passed. As the capsule contains tiny batteries it is not MRI compatible, and you should not have an MRI until its passage is confirmed.

We will discuss having a capsule endoscopy with you in detail on the day of your procedure. Please call us if you have any concerns.