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Patient Question

What is Capsule Endoscopy?


Assistant Professor
Department of Internal Medicine
Expert Answer

What is Capsule Endoscopy?
Capsule endoscopy (also known as wireless capsule endoscopy) is a new technology that allows doctors to see inside the small intestine by having the patient swallow a miniature camera that is stored inside a capsule device. The capsule is about the size of a large pill (11x26 mm — see picture below).

Why is Capsule Endoscopy Useful?
The small intestine is about 20 feet in length. Traditionally it has been very difficult to see inside the small bowel because it is mostly inaccessible to standard endoscopic techniques such as upper endoscopy or colonoscopy. Radiographic studies, including small bowel x-rays and CT scans, cannot reliably diagnose conditions involving the small bowel. Capsule endoscopy is an important advance, in that it allows doctors to actually see digitally recreated images of the inside of the small bowel.

What Conditions Does Capsule Endoscopy Diagnose?
We use capsule endoscopy to diagnose gastrointestinal bleeding of obscure origin. It can also be used to find out why a person may have iron deficiency or to diagnose a number of other conditions such as small bowel Crohn's disease, celiac disease, and small bowel tumors. Capsule endoscopy is a very sensitive technique to diagnose Crohn's disease when other methods may have failed to find it (see picture). This picture shows a capsule image of Crohn's disease. A discrete whitish ulcer can easily been seen.

What Does Having A Capsule Study Involve?
The patient usually comes to the office to have the test. After setting up some sensors on the torso of the body (similar to EKG pads), the capsule is swallowed with water. The patient, wearing a belt with the transmitter, leaves the office - it's that simple. The patient returns the monitor the next day and the images are downloaded into a computer.

Are There Any Side Effects Or Complications With Capsule Endoscopy?
Generally, it is a very safe test. The main complication is capsule retention, which means it may get caught in the small bowel. This happens about 1 percent of the time, usually only if there is something abnormal in the small bowel to begin with. People with swallowing disorders should not get the capsule unless it is placed by an endoscopy. The capsule may interfere with a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator, - it is usually not given if you have any of these devices.

How Can I Find Out If Having A Capsule Study Is The Right Thing Form Me?
First, you should discuss it with your doctor. If your doctor feels a capsule study would be indicated, you can reach Dr. Richards for a consult by calling 444-5220.

How Can I Get More Information About Capsule Endoscopy?
You can find more information by going to the manufacturer's Web site .
Some other useful Websites are:

For Additional Information Contact (631) 444-4000

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