Video Capsule Endoscopy

Raj I. Narayani

Video Capsule Endoscopy – sometimes referred to as the “camera pill” – is often considered new technology. In reality, it has been available since 1999.

Capsule endoscopy is most commonly performed to search for a cause of bleeding that is suspected to originate from the small intestine.  This is often the case in patients who have a traditional upper GI endoscopy (EGD) and colonoscopy that fail to discover a bleeding source.

The enormous length (18-25 feet!) and convoluted shape of the small intestine can limit traditional endoscopes from examining the entire organ from beginning to end. Because a capsule endoscope is wireless and untethered, swallowing this device allows a physician to see the entire small intestine with similar sharpness and clarity to traditional endoscopy.

The capsule shell remains sealed as it travels through the gut. It is the size of a vitamin tablet and takes three pictures per second for 12 hours. If you do the math, that means it produces nearly 130,000 photos during a single study. The capsule is passed harmlessly in the stool, and since it is disposable, is flushed down the commode and does not need to be retrieved (whew!).

The photos are wirelessly transmitted to a digital recorder unit that the patient wears on a belt during the 12-hour study. After the recorder is set up and the camera is swallowed by the patient, the remainder of the test can be performed while at home or work. After completion, the recorder is returned to the practice so that the images can be downloaded and interpreted by proprietary software that streams each picture in rapid sequence to create the video.

In addition to detecting obscure causes of intestinal bleeding, capsule endoscopy is used to diagnose other small intestinal diseases, such as polyps, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease), ulcers and tumors. GIA performs more capsule endoscopy studies than any other practice in Knoxville.

Adding this unique technology to a GI doctor’s endoscopic armamentarium means we can examine the entire gastrointestinal tract with video quality imaging!

If you have questions about the technology and techniques we use at GIA, talk with your physician. And if you have new or concerning symptoms, please make an appointment right away. We have the cutting-edge tools and expertise to diagnose and treat you, so you can start feeling better.