A capsule endoscopy is a type of endoscopy procedure that is less invasive for an improved patient experience. A capsule endoscopy occurs when a physician needs to obtain visibility into the patient’s GI tract. A capsule endoscopy provides the same standard of imaging as a regular endoscopy procedure, however it does not give physicians the ability to extract tissue or take any other action besides record the camera footage.
A capsule endoscopy may be ordered by a physician for a number of reasons, mainly for diagnosis of various GI conditions, including:
The capsule endoscopy is typically ordered as an exploratory step after patients report unexplained GI symptoms, such as weight loss, anemia, and chronic abdominal pains.
During a capsule endoscopy, the patient swallows a pill containing a tiny camera. The patient wears a belt of electrodes around their abdomen in order to track the capsule as it makes its way through the patient’s digestive tract. This takes approximately 8 hours.
Most medications can be taken as normal, but some will interfere with the capsule endoscopy preparation or examination. Before the procedure, always be sure to mention any medications that are being administered, as the dosage could be changed temporarily for patient safety. Also mention any existing medical conditions or allergies, as it could significantly alter care. Aspirin products or antiplatelet agents, arthritis medication, anticoagulants (such as warfarin or heparin), clopidogrel, insulin, or iron products are cause for particular concern.
Prior to a capsule endoscopy, there may be several necessary preparations, which a doctor or nurse will cover in further detail before the appointment. They will also cover instructions for the approximately 8-hours the patient wears the belt.
When a patient passes the capsule, they should return to their physician, who will remove the electrodes from their abdomen. The capsule pill is disposable and flushable. A doctor or nurse will then inform patients of follow-up appointments.
Complications from a capsule endoscopy are rare. Possible complications include the capsule becoming “stuck” within the digestive tract, in which case a physician will need to remove the capsule. There is also a risk of bleeding and of bowel obstruction. Both can be treated in follow-up by a GI physician.
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