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Capsule Endoscopy

What is a capsule endoscopy?

A capsule endoscopy is a safe, painless way for your doctor to look inside your child’s small intestine. It is used to diagnose a range of problems in the digestive tract.

The test uses a small single-use camera called a PillCam (about the size of a large vitamin), a belt is placed around your child’s waist and a wire over their shoulder. The belt attaches to a receiver that records the pictures.

As the PillCam moves through the small intestine, it takes color pictures and sends them to a receiver. The test lasts 8 hours.

Why might a child need a capsule endoscopy?

An upper endoscopy can be used to visualize and take biopsies from the food pipe (esophagus), stomach, and first part of the small intestine known as the duodenum. A colonoscopy can be used to visualize and take biopsies from the large intestine and the last part of the small intestine known as the terminal ileum. However there is a large amount of small intestine that is not reachable with the upper endoscopy or colonoscopy. If there is concern for bleeding or small bowel disease in those areas, a capsule endoscopy could be used to visualize those areas and help with a diagnosis. However, biopsies are not possible with the capsule endoscopy.

What are the risks of a capsule endoscopy?

Some possible complications that may occur with a capsule are:

  • Obstruction
  • A tear in the lining (perforation) of the small intestine

If your gastroenterologist is concerned about the capsule causing any of the above problems due to stricture or narrowing, your doctor may consider imaging first to ensure small bowel patency or have your child swallow a dissolvable pill known as a patency capsule first.

How is the capsule endoscopy done?

If able, your child can potentially swallow the PillCam. Alternatively, the capsule can be deployed under anesthesia during an upper endoscopy.