Small Bowel Capsule

The small bowel capsule study is a video technique for examining the small intestine. This is an area of the digestive tract not well seen by conventional endoscopic techniques. Pill capsule endoscopy involves swallowing a small "pill camera" which records photographs on a pager-like device the patient wears during the examination. The pill passes out of the digestive tract with the stool and is not recovered. The images are downloaded and interpreted after return of the recorder. This technique is not a substitute for endoscopy or colonoscopy, but is a very useful complementary tool to traditional examinations of the bowel.

Wireless Capsule Endoscopy is a state-of-the-art technique to record images of the digestive tract not usually visualizable by conventional endoscopy. The capsule is the size and shape of a vitamin pill and contains a tiny camera. After a patient swallows the capsule, it takes pictures of the inside of the gastrointestinal tract. The primary use of capsule endoscopy is to examine areas of the small intestine that cannot be seen by other types of endoscopy such as colonoscopy or esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). This type of examination is often done to find sources of bleeding, malabsorption, weight loss, or abdominal pain. The procedure was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001. Capsule endoscopy is used to examine parts of the gastrointestinal tract that cannot be seen with other types of conventional endoscopy. Upper endoscopy, also called EGD, uses a camera attached to a long flexible tube to view the esophagus, the stomach and the beginning of the first part of the small intestine (called the duodenum). A colonoscope, inserted through the rectum, can view the colon and the distal portion of the small intestine, and the very end of the small intesine (the terminal ileum). Unfortunately, these two types of endoscopy cannot visualize the majority of the middle portion of the gastrointestinal tract, the small intestine. The small intestine can measure 15 feet in length. Endoscopy of this entire length is technically difficult but capsule endoscopy can approach the area conveniently and safely. Capsule endoscopy is useful when disease is suspected in the small intestine and can diagnose sources of occult bleeding, iron deficiency, malabsorption, diarrhea, or causes of abdominal pain such as Crohn's disease. Capsule endoscopy can be used to diagnose problems in the small intestine, but unlike EGD or colonoscopy, cannot treat pathology that may be discovered. It can, however, guide management such as drug therapy or surgery.