The Ins And Outs Of Small Bowel Capsule Endoscopy

The bowel is part of our digestive system, made up of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. The bowel works to digest food, absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, and process and expel the waste that the body cannot use. Some people may experience gastrointestinal conditions such as bleeding, malabsorption, pain, tumors, and others that can be diagnosed through small bowel capsule endoscopy. 

Small Bowel Capsule Endoscopy

At Birmingham Gastroenterology, we want to ensure you know your options when it comes to getting care for diseases and disorders of the digestive tract, including your bowel. That’s why we have outlined the ins and outs of small bowel capsule endoscopy. 

What Is Capsule Endoscopy?

The American Gastroenterological Association defines capsule endoscopy as a procedure that allows your doctor to see inside your digestive system, specifically the lining of the small intestine. This procedure uses a camera inside a pill-like capsule that is swallowed by the patient. Once swallowed, the pill travels through the digestive system and sends images to a device attached to the patient’s abdomen. The images are stored and later reviewed by a gastroenterologist. 

Why Is Capsule Endoscopy Performed?

There are a number of gastrointestinal conditions that may warrant a capsule endoscopy. Some abnormalities that can be confirmed using this procedure include bleeding, malabsorption, tumors, polyps, Crohn’s Disease, abdominal pain, celiac disease, infectious enteritis, drug-induced ulceration, or other suspected small bowel diseases. In addition, capsule endoscopy can also obtain motility data such as gastric or small bowel passage time. 

How Do I Prepare For Capsule Endoscopy?

In order to achieve the best results possible for capsule endoscopy, it is important that you follow instructions and complete the pre-op preparation steps required. Additionally, it is essential you inform your doctor of any medications you take, if you have a pacemaker, a history of abdominal surgeries, or difficulty swallowing pills. At Birmingham Gastroenterology, the day before the procedure, you should start a clear liquid diet after lunch and have nothing to eat or drink after midnight. At noon, you will be instructed to take 2 Dulcolax tablets, and at 6:00 pm, drink one bottle of Magnesium Citrate. 

What Happens During Capsule Endoscopy?

During capsule endoscopy, you will have the sensor leads attached to your abdomen, along with a halter belt that holds the data recorder. The capsule, which contains a camera, light source, radio transmitter, and battery is then swallowed. Following this, you are free to return to regular activity with dietary guidelines and a plan to return the same afternoon. When the allotted time is complete, you will return to the office, where the halter and sensors are removed. Normally, the results will be available within 7-10 days. If you have a bowel movement during the test, it is important to ensure that the light is still blinking, which indicates the capsule didn’t pass into the toilet. 

Once the test is complete, the capsule will move through your digestive tract and exit through a normal bowel movement. There is no need to retrieve the capsule or return it to the doctor’s office. Should you experience capsule retention, where the capsule stays inside you, it is important to call your healthcare provider. 

At Birmingham Gastroenterology, we specialize in general gastroenterology, including diseases of the bowel that can be diagnosed through capsule endoscopy. All of our providers receive specialized training in endoscopy, along with comprehensive knowledge regarding disorders of the digestive tract, including the esophagus, stomach, intestines, liver, and pancreas. If you have more questions about small bowel capsule endoscopy or general gastroenterology questions, feel free to give us a call at (205) 271-8000 or visit our website to make an appointment.

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