The capsule is the size and shape of a pill and contains a tiny camera. After a patient swallows the capsule, it takes pictures of the inside of the gastrointestinal tract. The photographs are transmitted by the radio transmitter to a small receiver that is worn on the waist of the patient who is undergoing the capsule endoscopy. The primary use of capsule endoscopy is to examine areas of the small intestine that cannot be seen by other types of endoscopy such as colonoscopy or gastroscopy. This type of examination is often done to find sources of bleeding or abdominal pain.
The patient is kept nothing by mouth that is, told not to eat or drink, for at least 4-6 hours before the procedure. Some patients are required to take a bowel preparation to help clear the small bowel and make it clearer for the capsule as it passed through the bowel. At the end of the procedure, 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.