Taking it to another level: Wireless Capsule Endoscopy

Through the years, technology has inched its way into human lives. It has created an impact so big that it has become a necessity. Take for example cellular phones and cameras. Who would’ve thought those things would become “must-haves” when it comes to daily living? Cellphones for communication and cameras to capture moments forever. It’s a wonder how these technologies were invented and how much they affect human lives.

Tina smiles as she takes a selfie using her smart phone, thinking how awesome it is to capture one of her happiest moments in her summer vacation. Amazing how with just one click, one moment is immortalized forever. One camera, thousands of memories. And oh, how could she forget the video feature that would record what’s happening around her if she wanted to? She smiles to herself as she indulges herself in viewing previous photos and videos she took earlier.

A whole new level

image1So, the ability of doctors to see into our internal organs isn’t fresh news anymore. Throughout the years, this innovation with using small tubes and cameras has created wonders that helped the health care profession and helped in improving patient care. But what would one say if this “capturing everything inside of us” is taken to a whole new level? Let’s say wireless?

Capsule endoscopy is defined as a procedure that uses a tiny wireless camera to take pictures of your digestive tract. This so-called camera sits inside a vitamin-sized capsule that the patient swallows. As the capsule travels through one’s digestive tract, the camera takes thousands of pictures that are transmitted to a recorder the patient wear on a belt around the waist or over the shoulder.

The small intestine has been a difficult organ in which to make diagnoses and treat without performing surgery, but with the use of capsule endoscopy, doctors may now see inside a person’s small intestine (which isn’t easily reached with conventional endoscopy). This procedure can be used by adults and by children who can swallow the capsule.

This improved diagnostic and therapeutic capability in the small intestine is very useful, especially in uncovering the causes of abdominal pain, diarrhea, and anemia due to intestinal loss of blood and diagnosing diseases that may involve only the small intestine, for example, Crohn’s disease. Also, capsule endoscopy can provide better imaging of the lining of the small intestine than can other tests.

Usually, this is ordered for patients with:

  • Obscure gastrointestinal bleeding as it can help find the cause of gastrointestinal bleeding.
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases as it may reveal areas of inflammation in the small intestine that can help your doctor diagnose Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases.
  • Cancer as it can identify tumors in the small intestine that otherwise might be difficult to detect. Sometimes it is done in conjunction with CT enterography because CT enterography can indicate tumors within the small bowel wall.
  • Celiac disease since some small studies suggest that capsule endoscopy can detect intestinal changes associated with celiac disease and can help detect complications of the condition.
  • People who have inherited polyposis syndromes that can cause polyps in the small intestine, such as Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, may occasionally have capsule endoscopy to screen for polyps.



However, like any other procedure, there are risks that come with wireless capsule endoscopy such as:

  • the capsule can become lodged in the digestive tract. Barium X-ray, CT or MRI tests may be ordered before capsule endoscopy if you have symptoms of intestinal blockage.
  • People who have a permanent pacemaker or defibrillator may be hospitalized during capsule endoscopy for electrocardiographic monitoring during the procedure


  • The patient may be asked to have only clear liquids for 24 hours before the procedure and nothing by mouth the morning of the procedure. This is to help ensure that the camera captures clear images of your digestive tract.
  • Certain medications may be stopped or delayed temporarily as to prevent them from interfering with the camera.
  • The patient may also be advised to avoid strenuous exercise or heavy lifting after the procedure.

The procedure

In this procedure, the intestines are first cleared of residual food and bacterial debris with the use of laxatives and/or purges very similar to the laxatives and purges used before colonoscopy. Then, a large capsulecontaining one or two video chips (cameras), a light bulb, a battery, and a radio transmitter is swallowed by the patient. As the capsule travels through the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine, it takes photographs rapidly. The photographs are then transmitted by the radio transmitter to a small receiver that is wornon the waist ofthe patient who is undergoing the capsule endoscopy.

At the end of the procedure, which is approximately 8 hours later, the photographs are downloaded from the receiver into a computer, and the images are reviewed by a physician. The capsule is passed by the patient into the toilet and flushed away.


The body may expel the camera capsule within hours, or it may be expelled after several days depending on the person’s digestive system. If the patient doesn’t see the capsule in the toilet within two weeks, a health care professional must be contacted and an X-ray may be ordered to see if the capsule is still in the body.



Liane Clores, RN MAN

Currently an Intensive Care Unit nurse, pursuing a degree in Master of Arts in Nursing Major in Nursing Service Administration. Has been a contributor of Student Nurses Quarterly, Vox Populi, The Hillside Echo and the Voice of Nightingale publications. Other experience include: Medical-Surgical, Pediatric, Obstetric, Emergency and Recovery Room Nursing.

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