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What is Capsule Endoscopy?

By Nat Robinson
Updated May 17, 2024
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A capsule endoscopy is a diagnostic test used to view the gastrointestinal, or GI, tract. Unlike a traditional endoscopy, this test requires an individual to swallow a video capsule. The capsule is about the size of a large pill and contains a small camera. Generally, the test involves taking photographs of the digestive system as the capsule maneuvers its way through the patient's body. Patients will typically have wired adhesive patches attached to the abdomen and wear a recorder device to store images for the duration of the test.

If an individual complains to his or her doctor about gastrointestinal symptoms, he or she may be sent for this type of test to pinpoint the problem. The symptoms may include unexplained abdominal pains, bloating, a change in bowel habits or a frequent upset stomach. If less-invasive tests have failed to locate the cause of such problems, a capsule endoscopy made be done. The test carefully examines the small intestine, beginning with the duodenum. This is the first portion of the small intestine.

To prepare for a capsule endoscopy, a patient may be asked to take a laxative to empty the contents of the intestine. He or she may also be required to fast from foods and liquids for a certain amount of time leading up to the test. In most cases, the endoscopy will begin with the patient visiting a doctor's office to be given the capsule containing the camera. After the capsule has been safely ingested, the patient may be free to go about his or her day as usual. The capsule will work for itself, by taking many pictures over the course of several hours as it progresses down the esophagus, into the stomach and through the digestive system.

Doctors generally inform patients on what activities, if any, are to be avoided while taking part in this test. Most individuals will be advised to avoid particularly strenuous activities. The health care professional can also inform the patient on when it is okay to start back drinking liquids and consuming foods. In most cases, patients will have to wait a certain amount of hours after swallowing the capsule to do both. The capsule endoscopy is generally considered to be done after a set amount of hours or once the capsule is naturally expelled from the person's body.

After a capsule endoscopy, the patient will return to the doctor's office to receive the results of the test. The doctor will gather the adhesive patches containing the wires and the data recorder to review the photographs taken. Images produced by the test may be used to diagnose diseases and conditions of the gastrointestinal tract. Once a diagnosis is made, the physician can plan a treatment method for the patient.

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