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Video Capsule Endoscopy

What is a video capsule endoscopy?
Why would a doctor recommend a video capsule endoscopy?
What does a video capsule endoscopy involve?
How long is the recovery after a video capsule endoscopy?

What is a video capsule endoscopy?

A video capsule endoscope is a pill-sized device that contains a tiny camera and lights that allow your doctor to see inside your body. You swallow the capsule, and the device creates movies of your digestive system that your doctor can later view on a computer.

Why would a doctor recommend a video capsule endoscopy?

Until the video capsule endoscope was developed, doctors had difficulty viewing inside the small intestine. This part of your digestive system is below the reach of the upper GI endoscope, and above the reach of the colonoscope. Doctors use the video capsule endoscope when patients are suspected to have problems inside the small intestine, including:

  • Ongoing intestinal problems, such as Crohn's disease
  • Diarrhea that has no detectable cause
  • Long-term abdominal pain
  • Any internal bleeding of the digestive system

What does a video capsule endoscopy involve?

The video capsule endoscope is a sealed capsule that is about an inch long, and about half an inch thick. It includes a tiny camera, light emitting diodes (LEDs), a transmitter, and internal batteries. The device is disposable, and does not need to be retrieved when the test is completed.

The patient must not eat for ten hours before the procedure. At the hospital, the doctor attaches sensors to the patient's abdomen. The patient then puts on a belt that contains a data recorder. The doctor switches the video capsule on, and the patient then swallows the capsule with water, as if taking a pill.

Two hours after swallowing the video capsule, the patient can drink some liquids, and eat a light lunch two hours later. Natural digestive contractions will move the video capsule through the digestive tract. The camera takes two photos every second, and the transmitter sends the images to the recording device on the patient's belt.

Once the disposable capsule has passed through the patient's system - in about eight hours - the doctor retrieves the images from the recording device. He or she will study the photographs on a computer to find any problems in the patient's digestive system.

How long is the recovery after a video capsule endoscopy?

Once the capsule has been swallowed, you can go about your normal activities during the procedure. You will not feel the capsule moving through your body, and there is no pain or recovery time for this kind of endoscopy.

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