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What is a Small Bowel Video Capsule Endoscopy?

Video capsule endoscopy is a technique in which you swallow a disposable video capsule. The capsule is about the size of a large pill. This allow for thousands of pictures to be taken as the capsule travels along your digestive system. The camera transmits the pictures wirelessly to a data recorder that you wear on your waist.

What are the benefits?

The main benefit of a Small Bowel Video Capsule Endoscopy being performed is to examine the small bowel non-invasively.  Patients have generally had their upper and lower bowel thoroughly investigated prior to a capsule endoscopy, as such it examines the part of the bowel that other tests such as endoscopy or colonoscopy might not always reach.   

The investigation can be used for:


  • Investigation of obscure sources of bleeding from the small intestine

  • Investigation of potential inflammatory conditions of the bowel

  • Surveillance of coeliac disease and hereditary polyposis syndromes 

What are the risks?

For the majority of patients, a Small Bowel Video Capsule Endoscopy is a very safe procedure and thankfully serious complications are rare. 

  • Retention - this is when the capsule has not passed through the small bowel for some reason, normally a narrowed area or obstruction in the bowel. If this happens, the narrowing or obstruction in the small bowel may require surgery and the capsulre would be removed at the same time.

  • Retained capsule in the stomach - this is very rare and the capsule may need to be removed through a gastroscopy procedure.

  • Bleeding from small bowel lesion - less than 1.5%

  • There is a very small chance of equipment failure which means the test would have to be repeated. 

What are the alternatives?

You are under no obligation to have this procedure.  Any suitable alternatives should have been discussed in advance with your clinician.

You are under no obligation to have this procedure.  An alternative to Small Bowel Video Capsule Endoscopy would be an invasive endoscopy procedure.

The decision is yours as to whether to have an Small Bowel Video Capsule Endoscopy or not. However, without a Capsule Endoscopy your doctor may not be able to find a cause of your symptoms and it may be difficult to plan any further treatment.

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