Capsule endoscopy, or “pill cam”, is a test designed to examine certain portions of the GI tract using a pill-sized camera that is swallowed by the patient in a pill. The camera takes frequent photos of the lining of the intestinal tract and transmits these images to a receiver worn by the patient. When the receiver is returned to the office, the data is reviewed by the physician.
This test is done to examine areas of the GI tract that are not easily reached with traditional endoscopy (i.e. colonoscopy and upper endoscopy). This may be done to diagnose bleeding, unexplained pain, or any other possible diagnosis that would require more information about the small intestine.
After a 12-hour fast, the patient comes to the office and is given the pill to swallow. The patient is given a data recorder which is returned at the end of the day. The nurse who administers the pill will also provide diet instructions and activity guidelines to follow for the day of the test. The pill will pass naturally through the GI tract.
Complications are rare. The pill may become lodged at an area of narrowing (i.e. from a scar, tumor, etc.) and can lead to a blockage. In fact, if a patient has a known narrowed area of the GI tract, the doctor will have to determine if the test is appropriate. If the patient does not see the pill pass and there is concern that it is still in the body, an x-ray can be taken a few days following the test. The doctor should be notified if there is any discomfort in the days following this test.
After your recorder is returned, the data is downloaded to the doctor’s computer. The data is compiled, and a “movie” is made for review. The results are usually available about a week after the test is performed.