While recent technology has made examining the upper gastrointestinal tract and colon much easier, the small intestine remains a difficult area to reach without surgery. Although parts of the intestine can be seen during a colonoscopy or upper endoscopy, those procedures do not reach far enough to view the entire area. Barium X-rays have typically been used to diagnose problems of the small intestine, although they are not as accurate and easy as other procedures.
In response to the outdated procedures of this unreachable area, doctors have developed a capsule endoscopy. Also known as a wireless capsule endoscopy, this procedure involves swallowing a video capsule that will rapidly photograph the esophagus, stomach and small intestine on its way down. The video capsule is much larger than a pill and contains one or two video cameras, a light bulb, battery and radio transmitter. The photographs are transmitted to a receiver worn on the waist and then downloaded to a computer about 24 hours after the procedure. The capsule is then passed by the patient.
Although this procedure can provide more accurate and detailed results than X-rays, it is still not as successful as other camera procedures. A capsule endoscopy cannot perform any therapy in the area because the doctor does not control the device. The photographs may be blurred, or if may be hard to identify what location they are from. Despite these inaccuracies, capsule endoscopy is a rapidly improving technology that is making abnormalities of the small intestine much easier to diagnose.
Preparing for a Capsule Endoscopy
The following PDF document contains instructions on Preparing for a Capsule Endoscopy. It can be downloaded to your computer and printed at home.