Capsule Endoscopy

Capsule Endoscopy is a novel non-invasive imaging technique used to examine the small intestine. Traditional approaches to small bowel imaging have proved minimally successful as the small bowel is a relatively inaccessible part of the body. For obscure GI bleeding in particular, the diagnostic yield of Capsule Endoscopy is twice that of any other existing imaging procedure.  

Why capsule endoscopy?

The procedure is most commonly performed for obscure gastrointestinal bleeding, possible Inflammatory Bowel Disease and obscure abdominal pain. It is most commonly carried out after endoscopic examination of the colon or stomach fail to determine the cause. 

What does capsule endoscopy involve?

Capsule Endoscopy involves swallowing a pill-shaped camera that is approximately the size of a large vitamin pill (11mm x 26mm). This takes continual images during its passage down the small bowel. The images are recorded via sensors on the abdominal wall and stored in a reader that is worn on a belt around the patient’s waist. The capsule has an eight-hour battery life and then passes naturally through the body with no need for retrieval. 

Patients undergoing this procedure are required to take a small amount of bowel preparation on the evening prior to the procedure; they will then attend Spire Murrayfield Hospital the following morning. They will be connected to the equipment and then instructed to swallow the capsule. This first appointment lasts approximately half an hour, after which you will be discharged and encouraged to go about your daily routine. You can drink two hours, and eat four hours, after swallowing the capsule. You will be asked to return the belt and reader either that evening or the following morning. 

The images are then downloaded onto a computer and viewed as a video stream by your consultant Gastroenterologist. Results should be available to your referring physician within three working days. 

Are there any risks?

As with all medical procedures, there can be risks involved. The main risk associated with Capsule Endoscopy is intestinal obstruction; approximately one to two percent of patients are at risk from this. As with any other tests, it is possible for Capsule Endoscopy not to detect a lesion that is present and it is also not recommended for pregnant women.

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Capsule compared to a pound coin

Consultant performing capsule endoscopy at Spire Murrayfield Hospital

Dr Ian Arnott

© Spire Healthcare Group plc (2016)