Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Video Capsule Endoscopy: About This Test
Facebook Tweet Share

Main Content

Video Capsule Endoscopy: About This Test

The small intestine, with detail of the video capsule moving through it

What is video capsule endoscopy?

Video capsule endoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look for bleeding in your small intestine. It can also help find tumours or other problems there. You swallow a pill-sized capsule that contains a small camera. The camera takes pictures of your small intestine. It lets your doctor view parts of the small intestine that can't be easily reached with other tests.

Why is it done?

  • This test lets your doctor see the lining deep inside your small intestine. Other tests don't reach this far.
  • Your doctor can look for the cause of bleeding in the intestine.
  • The test may help your doctor diagnose a problem like an ulcer, a tumour, or inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn's disease.

How do you prepare for the test?

  • Your doctor will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before the test.
  • Your doctor will tell you if you need to drink a special liquid or take a tablet to clean out your digestive system.
  • Tell your doctor about any medicine that you take and medical devices that you have in your body and if you are unable to swallow pills.
  • Be sure to tell your doctor if you are or might be pregnant.

How is the test done?

  • You will be asked to swallow a capsule with a sip of water. The capsule is about 2.5 cm (1 in.) long. It contains a tiny video camera. You won't have a tube inserted down your throat, as is done in some other endoscopies. You won't need to stay in the hospital. And you won't need pain medicine.
  • A technician will attach sensors to your body. They will be connected to a recording tool.
  • You will be awake while the capsule moves through your digestive system. You won't feel the capsule moving. As the capsule travels through your system, the camera will take pictures and send them to the recording tool. A small light will blink each time the camera takes a picture.
  • After the test has started, you may be able to leave the doctor's office for a few hours. You may be able to go about your daily activities during the test. Avoid bending and any vigorous activity. Your doctor will tell you when to come back to the office.
  • You may be able to drink clear liquids about 2 hours after you swallow the capsule. You also may be able to eat a small snack about 2 hours after that.
  • During the hours of the test, you may use the toilet to urinate. If you pass stool and notice that the light on the recording tool isn't blinking, the test is over. Let your doctor know if the capsule has come out. You don't have to return it to your doctor. It can be flushed down the toilet.
  • After several hours, the technician will remove the recording tool. The pictures can be looked at later on a computer.
  • The capsule should pass out of your body in your stool in a day or two. If it doesn't, your doctor may have you get an X-ray to see where it is.

How long does it take?

The capsule records pictures for about 8-12 hours. After that, you can remove the equipment and return it to the doctor.

What happens after the test?

  • Your doctor should have the results of the test in a week or two.
  • Depending on the results, you might need other tests.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.