Capsule Endoscopy uses a pill-sized video camera, now called the PillCam, to view images your gastrointestinal tract. Two types of PillCam are available. PillCam SB that looks at the small intestine. The newest version is the PillCam ESO. This is used to see the esophagus.
The small intestine cannot be reached by traditional upper endoscopy or colonoscopy. PillCam SB can image the small intestine. The most common reason for doing small intestine capsule endoscopy is to search for a cause of bleeding from the small intestine. It may also be useful for detecting polyps, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease), ulcers and tumors of the small intestine.
The newer PillCam ESO is a less invasive way of looking at the lining of the esophagus. Esophagitis, hiatal hernia, and other problems of the esophagus can easily be seen. During traditional upper endoscopy, patients are sedated. The procedure takes 1-2 hours, including preparation and recovery time. In addition, another person is required to drive the patient home. PillCam ESO is an office procedure that takes about 30 minutes and requires no sedation. Patients can resume normal activities including work immediately after the procedure. A driver is not needed.
Note: Capsule Endoscopy does not replace colonoscopy for evaluation of the colon. Colonoscopy remains the most effective means of evaluating the colon and preventing colon cancer.
For the PillCam SB your doctor will prepare you for the exam by applying a sensor device to your abdomen with adhesive tape. The PillCam SB is swallowed and passes naturally through your digestive tract while transmitting video images to a data recorder worn on your belt for approximately eight hours. At the end of the procedure, you will return to the office and the data recorder will be removed so that the images of your bowel can be put on a computer screen for physician review. The review process may take several days.
For the PillCam ESO the sensors are attached to the chest. The PillCam ESO is swallowed and passes into the stomach, then through the rest of the digestive tract naturally. In about 30 minutes the sensors and recorder are removed and you leave the office. Just like with the PillCam SB, the images of the esophagus are viewed on a computer screen.
As is the case with most new procedures, not all insurance companies are currently reimbursing for these procedures. You may need to check with your own insurance company to ensure that this is a covered benefit.