Capsule Endoscopy

Capsule endoscopy uses a pill-sized camera to visually examine the midsection of the gastrointestinal tract, which includes portions of the small intestine. Capsule endoscopies are performed by doctors at the University of Michigan, ranked best in the state for gastroenterology by U.S. News & World Report.

Visit the Your Digestive System page to learn more about the digestive organs involved in this procedure.

How Is a Capsule Endoscopy Performed?

A capsule endoscopy is a procedure that involves swallowing a small capsule, which is the size of a large vitamin pill. Inside the capsule is a tiny wireless camera that takes pictures as it passes through the small intestine. Images are transmitted to a recording device worn on a belt around your waist. This recording device saves the pictures for a specialist to look at and interpret at a later time. A capsule endoscopy may require taking a laxative before the procedure. You will also have fasting instructions for the day before and/or the day of the procedure, depending on whether you have a morning or afternoon appointment.

Before beginning the procedure, which takes place at our Medical Procedures Unit, adhesive sensors will be placed on your abdomen and the recording device will be attached to your waist with a belt. You’ll then be given a glass of water to help swallow the capsule. You will not feel the capsule moving through your digestive tract.

If you have a morning appointment: Depending on your medical history, we may ask that you remain on site during the entire test. After about 8 hours, the adhesive sensors and recorder will be removed, and you will then be discharged immediately.

If you have an afternoon appointment: After you swallow the capsule you may leave the facility, but you will wear the adhesive sensors and recording device for the rest of the day and through the night.For equipment return, you will either come back the next morning by 8 am, or we may be able to make arrangements for the equipment to be mailed back.

During the test: After swallowing the capsule, you may drink clear liquids and take your medications after 2 hours, and you may eat after 4 hours. Avoid MRI studies, ham radios, and metal detectors. No strenuous physical activity is allowed. Keep all the equipment dry; do not shower, bathe, or swim.

Why Do I Need a Capsule Endoscopy?

Capsule endoscopies help your doctor rule out possible conditions or make a diagnosis for issues such as:

What Are the Potential Complications from a Capsule Endoscopy?

A capsule endoscopy is generally very safe. Very rare complications include bowel obstruction (if capsule becomes stuck in a narrow passage). If you notice any bloating, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, or trouble swallowing after a capsule endoscopy, contact your doctor as instructed on your discharge papers.

What Happens After the Capsule Endoscopy?

After the procedure, remove the adhesive sensors and recording device. You do not need to retrieve or save the capsule (you may not even notice it passing). It can be safely flushed down the toilet. You may return to your usual activities and medications immediately after the test. Results will be sent to the doctor who ordered your procedure in about a week. Do not have an MRI for 30 days.

Not all insurance companies reimburse for this test. You may need to check with your own insurance company to ensure that this is a covered benefit.

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment for a capsule endoscopy or other GI procedure, call the University of Michigan Medical Procedures Unit at 877-758-2626.