Goodbye Colonoscopy: Exam Uses Capsule to Take Pictures of the Intestine


People who have undergone colonoscopy experienced a long and rather uncomfortable procedure.

Preparations for colonoscopy are specific and for a large number of patients, doctors advise them to subject themselves to certain restrictions on diet or fluid. Oral laxatives are also often included or solid foods restricted for several days before testing.

Examination procedure:

–           The examination itself takes about 30-60 minutes, with medication to help patients relax during this time.

–           The patient lies on the left side while the doctor inserts a long, flexible tube anally.

–           The tube goes through the colon and sends pictures of the mucous membrane to the doctor to check for irregularities.

–           During this procedure, the patient may experience cramps, but this is necessary to determine if there are abnormal outgrowths or other issues within. These outgrowths can cause abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or other symptoms.

With the advancement of medicine and medical services, experts have focused on improving procedures and facilitating them to make them more patient-friendly. If the time came for the colonoscopy, you can now forget about sedation and invasive insertion. The current procedure involves one large pill, the placement of various sensors on the abdomen and attached to the transmission belt that you wear over the shirt.

Capsule Endoscopy 

In Brazil, this technology was approved almost four years ago, but because of its benefits, it is now increasingly used in many other laboratories and diagnostic centers around the world. In America, Loyola Medicine’s of Chicago is the first to offer this method.

Instead of awkwardly inserting a tube with a camera, the doctor gives the patient a pill with a camera device inside it. When swallowed, the pill takes thousands of pictures as it passes through the intestines and sends them to a data recording device located on the patient’s waist.

The advantage of this method is that it can check all parts of the bowel that traditional colonoscopy cannot reach, such as the small intestine.

This is the procedure used in most hospitals (but, there are differences in individual cases):

–           Taking laxatives to empty the patient’s intestines, and the patient is usually told not to eat after lunch the day before the procedure. Water should only be drunk on the day of testing.

–           In the morning, the patient puts on a sensor belt or the technician applies adhesive pads to the chest and abdomen.

–           Then, the technician attaches the data-trace to the belt around the patient’s waist.

–           With a little water, the patient swallows the capsules with the camera.

–           The patient goes home.

The instructions to follow are to avoid drinking for two hours and eating a light snack after four hours, but nothing else until after the examination (usually about eight hours after taking the tablet.)

Checking that the recordings are made later in the afternoon at the hospital, but if the pill has not yet reached the large intestine, the patient returns home and holds the sensors and data recorder until the recorder’s batteries are exhausted (usually after 12-14 hours). That patient returns to the hospital the next morning and continues the procedure.

The images are taken from the tracer by a doctor, and there is no need for the tablet to worry because it is single-use and will leave the body the next time the patient needs a bathroom.

This procedure is prescribed by a doctor for a variety of reasons, including screening for cancer (colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and the third in women). Early detection is very important, which can reduce mortality rates.

Dr. Honey. Mukund Venu, Director of Clinical Operations and Director of Diagnostic Testing at Loyola Medicine Department of Gastroenterology said:

“The video capsule system is the only alternative screening method for colon cancer that allows direct visualization of colon polyps.”

He also points out that early detection has been proven to save lives, video capsule shots are an effective screening test for people who cannot have a complete colonoscopy.

Other reasons for the procedure include:

–           Diagnosing inflammatory bowel diseases and Crohn’s disease

–           Finding the cause of gastrointestinal bleeding

–           Diagnosing celiac disease

–           Following up on other tests like X-rays

–           Examining the esophagus

Capsule Endoscopy vs Colonoscopy

For diagnosing lower gastrointestinal diseases, colonoscopies are still considered the gold standard, however, they do have their limitations, such as inability to visually inspect anything beyond the colon like the small intestine.

Colonoscopy also measures the treatment of intestinal polyps (by polypectomy), while with endoscopic capsules only passive visual information is obtained.

The use of camera capsules is reserved for cases where the success of traditional endoscopies or colonoscopies is negligible.

Risks of a Capsule Colonoscopy

Although this procedure is considered very safe, there are several risks, such as:

The fear many have when they hear that it is possible for a camera pill to get “stuck” in the digestive tract instead of leaving the gut. Although low risk, the most worrying are those who have tumors, stretch marks, Crohn’s surgery or surgery in these areas, or other conditions that cause the gastrointestinal tract to narrow. In such cases, your doctor will examine your CT before prescribing such a procedure.

If the capsule is not recorded in the intestine two weeks after colonoscopy, it is recommended that you consult a doctor for X-rays to see if it is still there.

If this low risk is neglected, capsule colonoscopy is far more comfortable and less intrusive than the traditional type, to which many patients are grateful.

Can capsule endoscopy replace colonoscopy?

Yes, they can be a substitute for traditional colonoscopy in certain circumstances, but it is the doctor who ultimately makes the decision.


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