Jefferson University Hospitals

Capsule Endoscopy

Imaging technology for gastrointestinal diseases has advanced significantly over the past decade, providing physicians with the ability to clearly evaluate symptoms and conditions. However, one area that has remained difficult to clearly diagnose is the small bowel.

Today, there is a diagnostic procedure known as capsule endoscopy that has proven extremely effective in providing images of the small bowel. Jefferson physicians are pioneers in this truly revolutionary noninvasive means of imaging the small bowel and are today one of the Philadelphia area's leaders in this specialty. In fact, more than 3,000 capsule endoscopies have been performed by the highly skilled team of our Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Unit.

What Does Capsule Endoscopy Involve?

Capsule endoscopy entails swallowing a capsule no bigger than a vitamin that contains a camera to capture images of even the most difficult-to-reach areas of your digestive tract.

As the capsule traverses the gastrointestinal tract, images are obtained per second and transmitted to a data recorder that is worn by the patient utilizing a Velcro belt. On the Velcro belt, in addition to the data-recording device, there is a battery that lasts approximately 8 to 10 hours and is rechargeable. The camera takes and transmits about two images per second (50,000 plus images in 8 hours).

Once the images are acquired by the image-data recorder, the patient comes to the Hospital approximately 8 hours later and removes the belt. The data is then downloaded onto a computer workstation. This utilizes RAPID (recording and processing of images and data) application software. Viewing of the gastrointestinal tract is then performed by one of our physicians, which takes between 45 minutes and 1 hour.

What Does Capsule Endoscopy Evaluate?

The major indication for capsule endoscopy has been evaluation of patients with obscure gastrointestinal bleeding, which accounts for 5 percent of all cases of gastrointestinal bleeding. The major causes for bleeding from the small intestine include:

  • Vascular ectasias
  • Polyps
  • Ulcers
  • Tumors

Indications for capsule endoscopy have expanded to include evaluation of patients with known or suspected:

  • Crohn's disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Familial polyposis syndromes
  • Unexplained iron deficiency anemia
  • Unexplained diarrhea and abdominal pain
  • Investigation of abnormal radiologic small bowel imaging