Capsule Endoscopy

Capsule endoscopy is a test done to take pictures of the digestive tract. It uses a capsule with a tiny camera in it. The capsule is swallowed like a pill. As the capsule travels through the digestive tract, it takes pictures. These pictures are sent to a recorder that is worn outside the body. The capsule passes out of the body through the stool in a few days.

Capsule endoscopy is most often done to check for problems in the small bowel (intestine) that are hard to see with a standard endoscopy or colonoscopy. These problems include bleeding and tumors. The test can also help diagnose Crohn’s disease. This is a condition that causes inflammation, sores, and narrowing of the bowel.

Before the test

Tell your child's provider about any medicines they take. They may need to stop taking all or some of these before the test. This includes:

  • All prescription medicines

  • Over-the-counter medicines, such as aspirin or ibuprofen

  • Illegal drugs

  • Herbs, vitamins, and other supplements

Also before the test:

  • Tell your child's provider about any past surgeries that could cause the capsule to get stuck.

  • Switch to a clear liquid diet 24 hours before the test.

  • You may be instructed to help your child with a bowel cleansing or use a laxative. This may be needed to help clear your bowels before the test.

  • Follow any other instructions given by your child's provider.

During the test

The test is done in a provider’s office or hospital:

  • Your child will be asked to raise their shirt.

  • Once the recorder is confirmed to be working, your child will be given the capsule to swallow. (In rare cases, the pill may be placed directly into the small bowel with the help of an endoscope. This is a thin, flexible tube that can be inserted through your mouth and down into the digestive tract. Your child's provider will tell you more about this, if it's needed.) The capsule works by sending pictures to the recorder as it moves through your stomach and small bowel.

  • After your child swallows the capsule, they will likely be allowed to leave the facility. After 2 hours, they can drink clear liquids. After 4 hours, they can eat food or take medicines. Be sure to follow any other instructions your child's provider has told you. For example, your child may be told not to do certain activities if they could affect the test results.

  • Your will be instructed when your child should return to your provider’s office or the hospital.

  • To prevent complications, do not schedule your child for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or go near the MRI device until the capsule has passed out of your child's body.

  • The capsule is passed out of your child's body through their stool. If this does not happen within 3 days, let your child's provider know right away. Treatment may have to be done to remove the capsule. Your child's provider will tell you more about this, if needed.

After the test

Once the pictures are reviewed, your child's provider will talk with you about the results. This is usually within a few days. If the pictures were blurry or unclear, the test may need to be done again.

Risks and complications

There is a small chance that the capsule will not pass out of your child's body. When that happens, the capsule is most likely stuck in the bowels. Surgery or endoscopy will be needed to remove the capsule.