Video Capsule Endoscopy

What Is Video Capsule Endoscopy (VCE)?

As the small bowel is approximately 6 m long, the majority is not seen with routine gastroscopy and colonoscopy. A VCE therefore allows visualisation of the whole small bowel by capturing digital images during passage through the gastrointestinal tract.

This is a procedure whereby a camera in the shape of a capsule or "pill cam" is swallowed or inserted via the oral cavity. You will also be fitted with an external belt and attachments containing sensors which record and transmit the images to your doctor. The video can then be viewed by a certified endoscopist (your doctor) with a report generated at the end. As the capsule passes, it does not need to be later retrieved and can be discarded. No anaesthetic is required for this procedure although dietary modifications will be necessary prior to the procedure.

Please inform your doctor if you have a history of narrowings (strictures) or Crohn's disease as this test may not be appropriate due to capsule retention. Alternatively, you may need a patency (dissolvable) capsule prior to the VCE to ensure that this device can pass through the bowel safely, without causing blockages or obstruction.

Why Do I Need A Video Capsule Endoscopy (VCE)?

A VCE may be recommended if you have experienced the following signs or symptoms:

  • Iron deficiency

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding of unclear cause

It may also need to be done as part of regular assessment if you have a history of:

  • Crohn's disease

How Can I Prepare for A Video Capsule Endoscopy (VCE)?

It is essential that the stomach is empty for this procedure therefore you will be asked to fast for a certain period of time prior to your scheduled VCE. This may also affect the timing of your regular medications so please refer to the individualised instructions that are sent to you prior or discuss any questions you may have with the team.

Are There Any Risks Or Side Effects From A Video Capsule Endoscopy?

Please be assured that the doctors performing your procedure are highly qualified and certified by the appropriate governing gastroenterological and endoscopy society. Complications from this procedure have been documented although they are uncommon and often rare.

Risks that we routinely consent for include:

  • Pill capsule retention and need for surgery to remove capsule

  • Poor image visualisation due to bowel content

If you are concerned about any of these potential adverse events or wish to explore these further, please discuss this with your doctor. If you experience any new or troubling symptoms after the procedure, please also get in touch with the medical team immediately.

Additional Information

For more information, please speak to your responsible consultant.