Recently the University of Maryland Medical Center's Division of Gastroenterology began using wireless capsule endoscopy to diagnose obscure GI bleeding and Crohn's disease. The device was approved by the FDA in 2002. Below are some frequently asked questions about the procedure.

What is a wireless capsule endoscopy?

It's a non-invasive test to diagnose the cause of obscure GI bleeding and other small intestinal disorders such as Crohn's disease. It can also be used to diagnosed GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease). The procedure entails swallowing a capsule-about the size of a multi-vitamin--that has a camera attached to it. As this capsule moves through the intestines, it takes pictures, which are transmitted to a small data recorder that the patient wears on his/her belt. These pictures are later downloaded and interpreted by a physician.

How is the procedure performed?

After an overnight fast, the patient will come to the doctor's office where they are fitted for the equipment. The equipment includes a belt that contains both a battery and a data recorder. In addition, leads will be hooked up to the abdomen, similar to how leads are hooked up during an EKG. Once the equipment is hooked up, the patient will ingest the capsule. The patient can eat four hours after the capsule is ingested, and is instructed to return to the office in eight hours, when the equipment is disconnected.

What kind of preparation do I need?

The preparation may depend on other medical conditions. However, preparation usually involves ingesting a clear liquid diet the day before the test and an overnight fast the night before the test.

How long does the capsule stay in my body?

Typically, the capsule will pass anywhere from one to three days after its ingestion. The capsule is disposable.

What are the benefits of the procedure?

Prior to capsule endoscopy, there were no effective non-invasive ways to visualize the small intestine. Clinical studies have shown capsule endoscopy to be the most effective, non-invasive way to visualize the small intestine. The procedure is painless and requires no sedation.

Are there any risks?

In 1% of cases, the capsule may take extended periods of time to pass. Also, in rare cases, the capsule can obstruct the small intestine.

Why should I come to the University of Maryland Medical Center to have the procedure done?

UMMC has physicians experienced in performing and reading capsule endoscopy tests. If a problem is found, we have GI specialists who can treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and other GI diseases.