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Video capsule endoscopy

Video capsule endoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look for bleeding in your small intestine. It can also help find tumors or other problems there. You swallow a pill-sized capsule that contains a small camera. The camera takes pictures of your small intestine. It lets your doctor view parts of the small intestine that can't be easily reached with other tests.

How is video capsule endoscopy done?

For a video capsule endoscopy, you swallow a capsule that is less than an inch long (about 23 millimeters). You will have to fast for 12 hours before you swallow the capsule, but it does not require other preparation.

A technician attaches sensors to your chest and connects them to a data recorder that you wear on a belt around your waist. The capsule contains a tiny video camera.

As the capsule travels through your gastrointestinal tract, the camera takes pictures and sends them to the data recorder. After 8 hours, the technician removes the data recorder and looks at the pictures. The capsule passes out of your body in the stool in a day or two.

Why is video capsule endoscopy done?

Video capsule endoscopy is becoming more commonly used because it has several advantages over traditional endoscopy.

  • It can show the entire small intestine and thus may be better at finding sources of bleeding.
  • It is not invasive. In traditional endoscopy, a thin, lighted tube is inserted down your throat.
  • It is painless, so you do not need to take pain medicine.
  • You do not have to stay in the hospital.

Video capsule endoscopy is generally safe and well tolerated. But it should not be used if you are known to have intestinal obstructions or narrowing (strictures) or abnormal connections or openings between two organs or parts of the body (fistulas).

  • Preparing for the procedure

    How do you prepare for video capsule endoscopy?

    • Your doctor will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before the test.
    • Your doctor will tell you if you need to drink a special liquid or take a tablet to clean out your digestive system.
    • Tell your doctor about any medicine that you take and medical devices that you have in your body.
  • During the procedure

    How long does having a video capsule endoscopy take?

    The capsule records pictures for about 8 hours. After that, you'll go back to the doctor to have the data recorder removed.

  • Results

    What happens after video capsule endoscopy?

    • Your doctor should have the results of the test in a week or two.
    • Depending on the results, you might need other tests.

    Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.