Thanks to technological advancements in modern medicine, our doctors can now have you swallow a “pill cam,” which is a small camera with a light source (about the size of a multivitamin). Also referred to as capsule enteroscopy or wireless capsule endoscopy, this method allows our doctors to easily to gather images of the small intestine, which is a region that can be particularly difficult to monitor.
If you’re experiencing pain, bloating, or discomfort, capsule endoscopy gives the doctors at GastroCareLI the ability to further evaluate your small intestine (also called your small bowel) using a minimally-invasive, non-surgical procedure. Before diving into why a capsule endoscopy may be a good option for you, it’s important to understand the different types of endoscopic procedures available.
What is an endoscopy?
An endoscopy is a diagnostic procedure which allows physicians to investigate the inside of your digestive tract using tiny cameras. By gathering images, our gastroenterologists can confirm or rule out the presence of certain health conditions. Though endoscopies are used to diagnose conditions across the medical spectrum, the following three endoscopic procedures are commonly performed on gastroenterology patients:
- Upper endoscopy – Also known as an esophagogastroduodenoscopy, upper endoscopies examine patients’ upper digestive tract using an endoscope. An endoscope is a flexible tube with a small camera fastened to the end. This procedure is particularly useful for examining the esophagus, stomach, and upper portion of the small intestine.
- Colonoscopy – Whereas an upper endoscopy examines the upper part of the digestive tract, colonoscopies target the large intestine and rectum with the use of a colonoscope. Similar to an endoscope, a colonoscope is a flexible tube with a camera attached to it.
- Capsule endoscopy – The capsule endoscopy differs from upper endoscopies and colonoscopies, in part due to the imaging method. Rather than a camera being attached to a flexible tube, a capsule endoscopy stores a camera inside of a pill-sized capsule which the patient swallows. Capsule endoscopies allow doctors to capture thousands of images inside the small intestine, which is a particularly difficult region to access using other endoscopic methods.
The best part of capsule endoscopy is that this procedure is quick, painless, and the camera is disposable so that it will pass through your system during a normal bowel movement. Based on your particular symptoms, a gastroenterologist will be able to recommend the best endoscopic method to diagnose your condition.
More About Capsule Endoscopy
Since a capsule endoscopy provides your gastroenterologist with a uniquely close look into the small intestine, this type of procedure is most commonly prescribed when patients are experiencing any unexplained intestinal bleeding. However, capsule endoscopy may be performed if your doctor suspects that your gastroenterological discomfort stems from a variety of other issues. Capsule endoscopy helps with the following:
- Diagnosing inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Finding and diagnose tumors, cancers, and polyps
- Routine follow up testing after other imaging tests are performed
- Monitoring existing conditions like celiac disease
- Recording allergic or disruptive reactions in the small intestine in real-time
Fortunately for patients who are prescribed a capsule endoscopy, the procedure is less invasive than other endoscopies, though all are generally comfortable and low-risk.
What to Expect from a Capsule Endoscopy
Since the procedure is safer and more conclusive if the stomach is empty, patients are required to abstain from eating or drinking about twelve hours before their capsule endoscopy. When you show up to your appointment, your doctor will attach a digital sensor to your abdomen using adhesive. You will also be provided with a data recorder to wear; this will store the images and videos that the pill camera collects. You will then swallow the capsule containing the camera.
While the pill is passing through your digestive tract it will transmit the information to the data recorder, so you will need to continue wearing it for about eight hours after you swallow the capsule. As the capsule makes its way through your system, you are typically not required to stay at the doctor’s office.
What Happens After a Capsule Endoscopy?
Each patient case is different, but typically you are permitted to drink clear fluids and have a light meal two hours after swallowing the capsule. You may be allowed to return to work if your job does not require you to expend a lot of energy. Once the procedure is finished, you will be expected to return the data recorder to your doctor so that the collected information can be reviewed.
The camera is disposable, so once you pass it through a bowel movement, you can simply flush it. Everyone’s digestive system works at different rates. Whereas some patients pass the capsule within hours of swallowing it, others may not pass it in a couple of days.
In some rare cases, the camera can become stuck in the digestive tract and cause symptoms like bloating, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. If you notice this following your endoscopy, do not panic, get in touch with your gastroenterologist so that they can evaluate your condition and remove the camera before your symptoms worsen.
The GastroCare LI Team is Ready to Help
Capsule endoscopy is a simple, safe, and effective way to get a better understanding of your symptoms. The doctors at GastroCare LI understand how confusing and frustrating digestive issues are and we are excited to be able to offer this service to our patients. To learn more about pill cam technology, and how a capsule endoscopy can help you, call our team of gastroenterologists near you today.