Capsule endoscopy is a way to record images of the digestive tract for use in medicine. The capsule is the size and shape of a pill and contains a tiny camera. After a patient swallows the capsule, it takes pictures of the inside of the gastrointestinal tract.
The technique was invented in Israel. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2001.
The primary use of capsule endoscopy is to examine areas of the small intestine that cannot be seen by other types of endoscopy such as colonoscopy or esophagogastroduodenoscopy. Upper endoscopy, uses a camera attached to a long flexible tube to view the esophagus, the stomach and the beginning of the first part of the small intestine called the duodenum. A colonoscope, inserted through the rectum, can view the colon and the distal portion of the small intestine, the terminal ileum. These two types of endoscopy cannot visualize the majority of the middle portion of the gastrointestinal tract, the small intestine.
Capsule endoscopy is useful when disease is suspected in the small intestine, and can sometimes diagnose sources of occult bleeding [blood visible microscopically only] or causes of abdominal pain such as Crohn's disease or peptic ulcers. Capsule endoscopy can be used to diagnose problems in the small intestine, but unlike EGD or colonoscopy it cannot treat pathology that may be discovered. A transmitted radio-frequency signal is be used to accurately estimate the location of the capsule and to track it in real time inside the body and gastrointestinal tract.
The results showed that the capsule endoscopy was more effective in the diagnosis of small intestinal bleeding and Crohn's disease as previously used methods. The test can detect 50-67% of cases of gastrointestinal bleeding and 43-71% of cases of Crohn's disease.