What Is Video Capsule Endoscopy?
If your gastroenterologist suspects there may be an issue and needs to look at your digestive tract, they may order a diagnostic procedure known as video capsule endoscopy. A small wireless camera is contained inside the capsule, which you swallow. It is a non-invasive way for your healthcare provider to see the inner workings of your gastrointestinal tract. Once you swallow the capsule, the miniature camera will take thousands of pictures for your physician to evaluate. This differs significantly from a typical upper endoscopy, where a patient is put under anesthesia, and a thin tube is inserted into their throat to provide images of the upper gastrointestinal tract. The video capsule endoscopy can provide far more comprehensive views of the entire gastrointestinal tract as opposed to upper endoscopy and colonoscopy.
Why Is a Video Capsule Endoscopy Performed?
There are many reasons why your gastroenterologist may order a capsule endoscopy. It is an exceptional diagnostic tool with the capability of confirming diagnoses or finding problems in the digestive tract. Some reasons a video capsule endoscopy may be performed are:
- Cancer diagnosis. The endoscopy can help show signs of colon cancer or other tumors located in the digestive tract.
- Gastrointestinal bleeding. This is the most common reason a video capsule endoscopy is ordered. The camera can examine any unexplained bleeding.
- Polyp screening. If your physician feels you may be at risk for colon cancer, a capsule endoscopy can check for polyps.
- Celiac disease. The capsule camera can detect the body’s immune response to gluten and can confirm a celiac diagnosis.
- Inflammatory bowel disease. Because the capsule travels the length of the GI tract, it can look for both ulcerative colitis, which affects the colon, or Crohn’s disease, which can cause inflammation to the entire digestive tract.
How Do You Prepare for a Video Capsule Endoscopy?
Unlike colonoscopy, which requires at least a day’s worth of preparation, preparing for a capsule endoscopy is quite simple. However, following your physician’s orders to the letter is imperative. Generally, your physician will ask you to refrain from eating or drinking 12 hours or more before the procedure. Your gastroenterologist may also provide you with a laxative capsule in order to clear the small intestine, which will improve pictures. Your physician may also ask you to refrain from taking medications that may interfere with the test.
Video capsule endoscopy is a relatively quick outpatient procedure, and you’ll go home the same day. However, you’ll be advised to refrain from exercising or strenuous activity until the capsule has passed.
What Is Expected with a Video Capsule Endoscopy?
Before your endoscopy, your health team will go over all the steps of the procedure beforehand. Some video devices are different. You may be asked to wear adhesive patches with small antennas around your abdomen, or you may have a belt secured to your abdomen that will record the camera’s pictures.
Once either your patches or belt is attached, you then swallow the capsule with water. Afterward, you can go on about your day (avoiding strenuous activities).
After you swallow the capsule, you’ll need to wait two hours to resume any food or beverage consumption. Your doctor will likely advise clear liquids only at first. After four hours, you’re allowed to have a snack or a light lunch.
After eight hours have passed, the procedure is complete. The procedure may end earlier if you pass the video capsule via a bowel movement. When either one of these events occurs, you can remove the patches or belt from your body and pack them up, following your doctor’s orders.
As everyone’s digestive system is different, the video capsule may not pass in a bowel movement after eight hours. Keep an eye on when the capsule does pass through your system. If you do not see the capsule within two weeks, let your doctor know. You should have the results of your tests within a few days to a week. The video in the capsule takes thousands of photos, which your gastroenterologist will review for any abnormalities in your GI tract.
Are There Any Risks with a Video Capsule Endoscopy?
As a video capsule endoscopy is a non-invasive procedure, there are few risks associated with the test. However, there is a slight chance that the capsule will not pass through the digestive tract (this is why you should let your physician know if you do not see the capsule pass in your stool).
This typically only occurs in those who have a significant narrowing of the GI tract due to a condition, such as a tumor or polyp, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis flare-ups, or a surgery that has narrowed the tract. If your doctor believes that the video capsule may be at risk of getting stuck, they may order a CT or MRI scan. Corticosteroids can reduce inflammation, so the test can be performed. Your physician may also test the size of your GI tract with a patency capsule. If this benign capsule passes through your digestive tract, then you are ready for your video capsule endoscopy.