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A capsule endoscopy is a non-invasive way to investigate gastrointestinal bleeding, unexplained abdominal pain and conditions such as Crohn's disease. The procedure involves swallowing a pill-sized camera inside a capsule (the Pillcam), which takes pictures of the small bowel.

Why you might need it

The small bowel is fairly difficult to investigate using traditional methods. You might need to have a capsule endoscopy if an endoscopic examination of your colon or stomach has failed to determine the cause of your symptoms, which may include obscure gastrointestinal bleeding and abdominal pain.

Pain, diarrhoea or constipation can be symptoms of underlying intestinal problems. Diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can cause inflammation, or even ulceration, in your bowel.

If you've been diagnosed with iron deficiency anaemia (low red blood cell count), you may have a capsule endoscopy to help identify the cause. One common cause of anaemia is bleeding within the gut, which may be from the stomach, large bowel or small bowel. The bleeding may not always be obvious or visible, so tests like a capsule endoscopy may be helpful.

A capsule endoscopy could help to diagnose these conditions and to rule out more serious diseases, especially if you have visible bleeding from your back passage, which should never be ignored. The Pillcam can also be used to examine possible abnormalities of the intestine that show up on abdominal scans. It is used to monitor patients with refractory coeliac disease and intestinal polyps.

We pride ourselves on our clinical excellence, you'll be looked after by an experienced multi-disciplinary care team.

Who will do it?

Our patients are at the heart of what we do and we want you to be in control of your care. To us, that means you can choose the consultant you want to see, and when you want. They'll be with you every step of the way.

All of our consultants are of the highest calibre and benefit from working in our modern, well-equipped hospitals.

Our consultants have high standards to meet, often holding specialist NHS posts and delivering expertise in complex sub-speciality surgeries. Many of our consultants have international reputations for their research in their specialised field.

Before your treatment

You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.

We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.

Preparing for your treatment

We've tried to make your experience with us as easy and relaxed as possible.

For more information on visiting hours, our food, what to pack if you're staying with us, parking and all those other important practicalities, please visit our patient information pages.

Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.

 

The procedure

We understand that having a test can potentially be a time of anxiety and worry. Our experienced and caring medical staff will be there for you, holding your hand, every step of the way.

During a capsule endoscopy, you will swallow a capsule that contains a disposable, electronic, pill-sized camera, which takes continual pictures - about 100,000 over the course of eight hours - during its passage through your gastrointestinal tract. The camera is about the size of a large vitamin pill (11mm x 26mm).

The images are recorded and stored in a reader that is worn on a belt around your waist. The capsule has an eight-hour battery life and usually passes naturally through your body with no need for retrieval.

During your appointment, which will last approximately half an hour, you will be connected to the equipment and instructed to swallow the capsule with a glass of water. You will be discharged and encouraged to go about your daily routine. You can usually drink two hours after swallowing the capsule, and have a light snack after a gap of four hours.

You will be asked to return the belt and reader either that evening or the following morning. The images will be downloaded onto a computer and viewed as a video stream by your consultant gastroenterologist.

Aftercare

You will be able to leave hospital after the procedure. Typically, results should be available to your referring doctor within three working days.

The Pillcam is disposable and will pass out of your body with a normal motion. You shouldn't experience any pain.


Looking after you

Even after you’ve left hospital, we’re still looking after you every step of the way. After a capsule endoscopy we will provide you with all the advice on what to do and not to do.

On rare occasions, complications following a capsule endoscopy can occur. The main risk associated with the procedure is intestinal obstruction, where the capsule becomes lodged in a narrowed area of the small bowel, and so it is not recommended for people with known or suspected gastrointestinal obstruction.

Capsule endoscopy is not recommended for pregnant women, and special precautions need to be taken if you have a cardiac pacemaker.

Your consultant will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.

If you have any questions or concerns, we're here to help.

How much does it cost?

A fixed price for this treatment may be available on enquiry and following an initial consultation.

We are committed to delivering excellent individual care and customer service across our network of hospitals, clinics and specialist care centres around the UK. Our dedicated and highly trained team aim to achieve consistently excellent results. For us it's more than just treating patients, it's about looking after people.

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Important to note

The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.

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