Capsule Endoscopy

Capsule endoscopy is a medical procedure which allows your physician to visualize parts of your gastrointestinal tract. The GI tract is a part of the digestive system and extends from the mouth to the anus.

The PillCam Platform is an efficient, patient-friendly, and clinically-proven system consisting of PillCam video capsules for the esophagus and small bowel. More than 1,000,000 patients worldwide have benefited from the PillCam video capsules.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is an upper endoscopy?

A:The process in which a thin, lighted, flexible tube with a camera at its tip looks inside of the esophagus, stomach and the first part of the small intestine. Usually performed as an outpatient procedure, upper endoscopy sometimes must be performed in the hospital or emergency room to both identify and treat upper digestive system bleeding.

Q: What is the PillCam SB video capsule?

A:The PillCam SB video capsule is a pill that you swallow that takes pictures of your small intestine, the organ that falls between your stomach and large intestine. It is the size a vitamin pill and has a miniature camera contained in it.

Q: Why do doctors recommend PillCam SB video capsule?

A: The PillCam video capsule allows your doctor to see your entire small intestine – an organ you could never fully see before this capsule was developed. It also helps your doctor determine the cause of many unresolved symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, bleeding or anemia. The small intestine is primarily responsible for digesting food and is the source of many of these unexplained symptoms.

Q: Can you walk me through the procedure step-by-step?

A: After you arrive at the doctor’s office the nurse or doctor will attach sensors to your stomach with an adhesive so they won’t come off. These sensors allow the video capsule to wirelessly transmit images of your small intestine. You will then be asked to put a Velcro belt on with a data recorder attached to it. This recorder is the size of a CD walkman and actually stores all the pictures taken by the video capsule. You will then be asked to swallow the vitamin-sized video capsule with a glass of water. Once the nurse or doctor has determined that you have successfully swallowed the video capsule you will be allowed to leave the office for the remainder of the day. You return to the office approximately 8 hours later to return the data recorder and to have the sensors removed from your stomach. Your doctor then loads the pictures stored on the data recorder to his or her computer to review. The doctor will then call you to walk through the results.

Q: How many pictures does the PillCam SB video capsule take?

A: Approximately 50,000.

Q: How long is the procedure?

A: Approximately eight hours.

Q: How does the capsule get eliminated and will I feel it come out?

A: The capsule is disposable and passes naturally with a bowel movement, usually within 24 – 72 hours.

Q: Does the capsule hurt?

A: The video capsule has a smooth texture similar to a Tylenol capsule. You should not feel any pain or discomfort.

Q: How long is the recovery?

A: Recovery is immediate. The procedure requires no preparation or sedation.

Q: What is the difference between the PillCam video capsule and an endoscopy or colonoscopy?

A: The PillCam video capsule does not require sedation, can be administered in a doctor’s office and the recovery is immediate.

Q: Is the procedure approved for children?

A: Yes the procedure is approved in children age 10 and older.

Q: What kinds of things will the PillCam video capsule find?

A: It has detected sources of bleeding, lesions, ulcers and tumors.

Q: What is the size of the PillCam video capsule?

A: The PillCam video capsule measures 11 mm x 26 mm and weighs less than 4 grams. It is approximately the size of a vitamin pill.

Q: Is the PillCam video capsule reimbursed by insurance?

A: The PillCam video capsule is widely covered in the U.S. by both Medicare and private insurance companies. Speak with your insurance carrier and then your physician’s office for the exact coverage as every insurance plan is different.

Q: Is the PillCam SB video capsule approved by the US Food and Drug Administration? If yes, how long has it been on the market?

A: Yes. It has been on the market since its clearance in 2001.

Q: Where is your small intestine located and what does it do?

A: Your small intestine is the organ that is between your stomach and large intestine. It is primarily responsible for digesting food.

Q: How big is the small intestine?

A: It is 21ft in length.


PillCam capsule endoscopy is the most widely used, patient-friendly tool for direct visualization of the GI tract. To date, more than 1,200,000 patients worldwide have benefited from PillCam endoscopy.

In PillCam capsule endoscopy the patient swallows a PillCam video capsule that is the size of a large vitamin. The capsule then passes through the digestive system, transmitting images and data wirelessly to a Data Recorder worn by the patient. Once the procedure has been completed, the images are reviewed by a physician.

PillCam capsule endoscopy offers a simple, safe and non-invasive alternative to traditional imaging procedures. The procedure does not require sedation, incubation, bowel insufflation or radiation. Patients may even continue with their normal daily activities during the procedure.

In addition, the Agile™ patency capsule provides a simple and convenient means to verify functional patency of the GI tract in patients with known or suspected strictures.


PillCam capsule endoscopy is not for everyone. PillCam video capsules are contraindicated in patients with: known or suspected gastrointestinal obstructions; strictures or fistulas; cardiac pacemakers or other implantable electromedical devices; and swallowing disorders.

Agile patency capsules are contraindicated in patients with swallowing disorders. The Agile Patency Scanner is contraindicated in patients with cardiac pacemakers or other implanted electromedical devices.

Capsule retention has been reported in less than two percent of all capsule endoscopy and patency procedures. Capsule retention is defined as having a capsule that remains in the digestive tract for more than two weeks.

Causes of retention cited in the literature include: NSAID strictures, Crohn’s disease, small bowel tumors, intestinal adhesions, ulcerations, and radiation enteritis. Summaries in published literature identify the risk of retention for obscure bleeding to be 1.5%; for suspected Crohn’s disease to be 1.4%; for known Crohn’s disease the risk is higher at 5%; and for neoplastic lesions, the rate of retention is 2.1%; as compared to healthy volunteers.1,2 To verify passage of the capsule from the GI tract, an abdominal X-ray may be obtained at the discretion of the physician.

There is a rare risk of capsule aspiration while patients are attempting to swallow a PillCam video capsule or Agile patency capsule. There is also a low risk of skin irritation from the Sensor Array sleeve adhesive or silicone exposure.

Medical, endoscopic, or surgical intervention may be necessary to address any of these complications, should they occur.

The PillCam SB video capsule and/or the Agile patency capsule may be administered by using transendoscopic delivery in patients who are either unable to ingest the capsule or are known to have slow gastric emptying. If using transendoscopic delivery, potential complications include, but are not limited to: perforation, hemorrhage, aspiration, fever, infection, hypertension, respiratory arrest, and cardiac arrhythmia or arrest.

All medical procedures carry some risks. Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor about your specific diagnosis and treatment.

Patients ingest a tiny camera in a pill that transmits detailed images of the small intestine.

Information provided by Given Imaging

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