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Capsule Endoscopy

Capsule Endoscopy examines the lining of the middle part of your gastrointestinal tract and helps your physician evaluate the small intestine. This part of the bowel cannot be reached by traditional upper endoscopy or by colonoscopy. The most common reason for doing capsule endoscopy is to search for a cause of bleeding from the small intestine.

The Procedure

A sensor device will be applied to your abdomen with adhesive sleeves (similar to tape). The pill-sized capsule endoscope is swallowed and passes naturally through your digestive tract while transmitting video images to a data recorder worn on your belt for approximately 8 hours. At the end of the procedure, you will return to the office and the data recorder is removed so that images of your small bowel can be put on a computer screen for physician review. Most patients consider the test comfortable. The capsule endoscope is about the size of a large pill. After ingesting the capsule and until it is excreted, you should not be near an MRI device or scheduled for an MRI examination.

Before Your Appointment

  • You should have nothing to eat or drink, including water, for approximately 12 hours before the examination
  • Tell your doctor in advance about any medications you take, including iron, aspirin, bismuth subsalicylate products and over-the-counter medications
  • Discuss any allergies to medications as well as medical conditions, such as swallowing disorders and heart or lung disease
  • Tell your doctor of the presence of a pacemaker or defibrillator, previous abdominal surgery, or previous history of bowel obstructions, inflammatory bowel disease or adhesions

After Your Appointment

You will be able to drink clear liquids after two hours and eat a light meal after four hours following the capsule ingestion, unless your physician directs you otherwise. You will have to avoid vigorous physical activity such as running or jumping during the study. Generally, the results of the procedure are available in about a week; however, the results of some tests might take longer.


Although complications can occur, they are generally rare when doctors who are specially trained and experienced in this procedure perform the test. There is a potential for the capsule to be stuck at a narrowed spot in the digestive tract resulting in bowel obstruction. This usually relates to a stricture (narrowing) of the digestive tract from inflammation, prior surgery or tumor. Signs of obstruction include unusual bloating, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting. You should call your doctor immediately for any such concerns. Also, if you develop a fever after the test, have trouble swallowing or experience chest pain, tell your doctor immediately.

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