What is a PillCam™ Capsule Endoscopy?

PillCam™ Capsule Endoscopy allows your doctor to examine your small intestine. For the examination, you will swallow a vitamin pill-sized video capsule. 

This capsule has its own camera lens and light source. While the video capsule travels through your digestive tract, images are sent to a data recorder you will wear on a waist belt. Afterwards, your doctor will view the images on a video monitor.

Why Do I Need a PillCam Capsule Endoscopy?

The most common reason for the examination is persistent bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract with negative results on upper endoscopy (EGD), colonoscopy, and a small bowel follow-through X-ray. Other reasons for the examination include an abnormal X-ray of the small intestine, certain chronic conditions, or, in rare cases, persistent abdominal pain.

What are the benefits of a PillCam Capsule Endoscopy?

Capsule endoscopy allows examination of an area of the intestinal tract that could not be directly visualized previously. This is only a diagnostic test, meaning you cannot biopsy or treat with a laser through the capsule. 

However, it can prevent unnecessary gastroenterological surgery or repeated examination with upper endoscopy and or colonoscopy.

Is There an Alternative to a PillCam Capsule Endoscopy?

Yes. Small bowel enteroscopy using a standard endoscope is an alternative to examination of the small bowel, but it cannot view the entire small bowel as capsule endoscopy can. 

Small bowel X-rays can view the entire small bowel but are much less accurate.

Are There Side Effects and/or Risks to a PillCam Capsule Endoscopy?

Examination of the small intestine with capsule endoscopy is generally safe. Complications are uncommon. Risks and complications include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • In approximately 1 out of 100 procedures, the capsule can become lodged above a stricture or narrowed area. 
  • Patients who have Crohn’s disease or have had abdominal surgery in the past are at increased risk for this complication.
  • If an obstruction or stricture prevents passage of the capsule, surgery may be required for removal, carrying with it the associated risks of bleeding, infection, prolonged hospitalization, and even death.
  •  An abdominal X-ray may be ordered in the weeks after the procedure if the physician is not able to determine whether the capsule passed into the large intestine during the course of the study.
  • There have been reports of the capsule becoming lodged at the back of the throat.Should this occur, the capsule may need to be removed by a physician.
  • There is a risk of aspiration (swallowing the capsule accidentally into the lung). Should that occur, pneumonia and other complications could result.
  • Patients who have difficulty swallowing may be at increased risk for complications. It is important that you notify the nursing staff or physician prior to the capsule endoscopy procedure if you have difficulty swallowing.
  • The capsule is not approved for use in patients with pacemakers or implanted cardiac defibrillators. The capsule has been used in some centers in these patients without complications related to the pacemaker or implanted defibrillator.
  • Due to variations in the patient’s intestinal motility, the capsule may only image part of the small intestine. It is also possible that, due to technical factors including but not limited to food debris in the intestine and device malfunction, some images may be inadequate; this may result in the need to repeat the capsule procedure.
  • Due to the metallic components of the capsule, MRI studies should not be performed until the capsule has passed out of the body. If you require an MRI study, notify the ordering physician that you have recently had capsule endoscopy and that the capsule must be passed out of the body before the MRI is performed.
  • Capsule endoscopy is not a perfect study. Abnormalities, including cancer, might not be seen in some cases.
  • Sometimes the doctor will order a potency capsule prior to the actual capsule.

What Will Happen When I Arrive for My PillCam Capsule Endoscopy?

  • On the day of the procedure, you will have an appointment with a nurse. 
  • Please arrive to the office dressed in loose fitting two-piece clothing. 
  • A brief medical history will be reviewed with you by a nurse.
  • You will need to review and sign the capsule endoscopy consent form before proceeding.
  • You will provide a list of any current medications you are taking along with any allergies you have to medications.
  • Before you swallow the capsule, the nurse will tape six electrode sensors on your abdomen. These sensors are connected to the data recorder that you will wear at your waist.

What Will Happen After I Ingest the PillCam Capsule?

  • After ingesting the M2A capsule, do not eat or drink for at least two hours.
  • You may have clear liquids two hours after ingesting the capsule and taking any medications.
  • After four hours, you may have a light snack.
  • After ingesting the M2A capsule and until it is excreted, you should not be near any source of powerful electromagnetic fields such as near an MRI device or amateur (ham) radio.
  • Capsule endoscopy lasts approximately eight hours and is considered complete according to your physician’s instructions.
  • Do not disconnect the equipment or remove the belt at any time during this period.
  • Because the data recorder is actually a small computer, it should be treated with utmost care and protection.
  • Avoid sudden movement and banging of the data recorder.
  • You can go to work or engage in your usual daytime activities.
  • Avoid any strenuous physical activity, especially if it involves sweating, and do not bend over or stoop during capsule endoscopy.
  • You will return to Dayton Gastroenterology at 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon.

What Will Happen When I Return to Dayton Gastro at 4:00 p.m.?

  • The sensors will be removed, and the images from the data recorder will be downloaded into a computer. 
  • The capsule passes through your intestines and is excreted through your rectum. The capsule is disposable.
  •  A physician will review the video within several days, and a report will be sent to your doctor.
  • After the examination is completed and the equipment is removed, you may return to your normal diet.

How Do I Prepare for My PillCam Capsule Endoscopy?

Please click the button below to view the preparations for your PillCam™ Capsule Endoscopy: