Capsule Endoscopy

Capsule Endoscopy

Capsule endoscopy is a procedure designed to help your physician see what is happening inside parts of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The GI tract is the tube which extends from the mouth to the anus in which the movement of muscles digests food. During the procedure, a patient swallows a vitamin-sized pill with a camera inside. Transported smoothly and painlessly through the gastrointestinal tract by the body’s own natural peristalsis, the PillCam® capsule transmits images of different parts of your body such as the small intestine and the esophagus. After being cleared for marketing by the FDA in 2001, more than 500,000 patients are benefiting from PillCam® capsule endoscopy.

After fasting the night before the procedure, the PillCam® capsule endoscopy process starts with a visit to your doctor’s office where you will be given a glass of water to help swallow the vitamin-sized pill. As it travels through your body, the camera-in-a-pill transmits images to a small recording device worn around your waist. After swallowing the PillCam® capsule, you can go about your daily routine and return to the doctor’s office eight hours later to return the device. Your doctor can then review the images taken by the capsule to determine the cause of your symptoms. The pill passes naturally with a bowel movement usually within 24 hours.

PillCam SB

The PillCam® SB capsule is designed specifically to help your doctor see inside your small bowel (small intestine) to diagnose diseases like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, benign and cancerous tumors, ulcerative colitis as well as others disorders. The small intestine is the part of the gastrointestinal tract that connects the stomach to the large intestine and absorbs nutrients.

Capsule endoscopy is the least invasive and most direct way for doctor’s to see the entire small intestine. After being cleared by the FDA in 2001, hundreds of clinical studies conducted by the world’s leading gastroenterologists have shown the value of PillCam® SB in helping doctors diagnose or rule out diseases in the small intestine. 


The PillCam ESO video capsule is designed specifically to help your doctor see inside your esophagus to diagnose diseases such as esophageal varices, which may result in fatal bleeding, gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) and Barrett’s esophagus, which is an early indication for esophageal cancer. The esophagus is a tube shaped organ that connects the throat to your stomach.

PillCam ESO provides a patient-friendly alternative to esophageal endoscopy and the associated sedation and discomfort, though has some limitations and drawbacks. Ask your physician if PillCam ESO is right for you. PillCam ESO contains an imaging device and light source at both ends of the capsule and takes up to 14 images per second or a total of 2,600 color images as it passes down the esophagus.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the PillCam SB video capsule?

The PillCam video capsule is a pill that you swallow that takes pictures of your small intestine, the organ that falls between your stomach and large intestine. It is the size of a vitamin pill and has a miniature camera contained in it.

Q: Why do doctors recommend this PillCam SB video capsule?

The PillCam SB video capsule allows your doctor to see your entire small intestine – an organ physicians could never fully see before this capsule was developed. It also helps your doctor determine the cause of many unresolved symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, bleeding or anemia.

The small intestine is primarily responsible for digesting food and is the source of many of these unexplained symptoms.

Q: Can you walk me through the procedure step-by-step?

After you arrive at the doctor’s office the nurse or doctor will attach sensor arrays to your stomach with an adhesive so they won’t come off. These sensors allow the video capsule to wirelessly transmit images of your small intestine.

You will then be asked to put a Velcro belt on with a data recorder attached to it. This recorder is the size of a CD walkman and actually stores all the pictures taken by the video capsule.

You will then be asked to swallow the vitamin-sized video capsule with a glass of water. Once the nurse or doctor has determined that you have successfully swallowed the video capsule you will be allowed to leave the office for the remainder of the day.

You return to the office approximately 8 hours later to return the data recorder and to have the sensors removed from your stomach.

Your doctor then loads the pictures stored on the data recorder to his or her computer to review. The doctor will then call you to walk through the results.

Q: How many pictures does the video capsule take?

Approximately 50,000.

Q: How long is the procedure?

Approximately eight hours.

Q: How does the capsule get eliminated and will I feel it come out?

The capsule is disposable and passes naturally with a bowel movement, usually within 24 – 72 hours.

Q: Does the capsule hurt?

The video capsule has a smooth texture similar to a Tylenol capsule. You should not feel any pain or discomfort.

Q: How long is the recovery?

Recovery is immediate. The procedure requires no preparation or sedation.

Q: What is the difference between the PillCam SB video capsule and an endoscopy or colonoscopy?

The PillCam SB video capsule does not require sedation, can be administered in a doctor’s office and the recovery is immediate.

Q: How many people have undergone this procedure?

Approximately half a million patients worldwide.

Q: Is the procedure approved for children?

Yes the procedure is approved in children age 10 and older.

Q: Are there other PillCam SB video capsules available?

Yes. A PillCam SB video capsule to visualize the esophagus was approved by the US FDA in 2004.

Q: What kinds of things will the PillCam video capsule find?

It has detected sources of bleeding, lesions, ulcers, and tumors.

Q: What is the size of the PillCam SB video capsule?

The PillCam SB video capsule measures 11 mm x 26 mm and weigh less than 4 grams. It is approximately the size of a vitamin pill.

Q: Is the PillCam SB video capsule reimbursed by insurance?

The PillCam SB video capsule is widely covered in the U.S. by both Medicare and private insurance companies. I would recommend that you speak with your insurance carrier and then your physician’s office for the exact coverage as every insurance plan is different.

Q: What is an upper endoscopy?

This is when a doctor inserts an endoscope, a long, thin, lighted flexible tube with a small camera on the end through your mouth and into the esophagus. You are awake during the procedure but the doctor administers sedatives intravenously, and sprays numbing agents into your throat to prevent you from gagging. The recovery time is approximately 1 to 2 hours or until the effects of the sedatives wear off. Your throat may be sore for up to two days.

Q: What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD is a family of chronic diseases that affects your intestines. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis both fall under the same umbrella and were once believed to be the same disease. Patients with IBD experience such symptoms as persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain or cramps, fever and weight loss, and joint, skin, or eye irritations in varying degrees. Some may not experience all of these symptoms.

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