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 likely have to fast for 12 hours before you swallow the capsule. You will get other instructions depending on which type of capsule is being used for the test.

There are different ways that information from the video capsule can be recorded. Some capsule sensors attach to the body with tape. Some sensors are in a belt that you wear. Other capsules store the information and need to be collected when they leave the body in stool.

As the capsule travels through your gastrointestinal tract, pictures are recorded. After about 8 hours, any sensors that were used can be removed. The pictures in the recording tool can be looked at during the test or later.

The capsule should pass out of your body in your stool in a day or two. You will get instructions on which type of capsule is being used for your test and if you need to collect it from your stool.

Why is video capsule endoscopy done?

Video capsule endoscopy has some advantages over traditional endoscopy.

  • It can show more of the 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 8 hours or longer. You will get instructions on when to return to the office depending on which type of capsule is being used for your test.


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.


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