A capsule endoscopy, also known as Pill Cam, represents amazing technology whereby the patient swallows a vitamin-sized pill which contains a camera and its own light source. The camera relays signals to a data recorder connected to a sensor belt worn around the waist. The camera sends an astonishing 50,000 images over an 8 hour period.
The Pill Cam is 11mm x 26mm and weighs less than 4 grams. It is swallowed early in the morning and as it travels through the digestive system, it relays photos to the data recorder. In this way it allows your gastroenterologist to view the lining of the small bowel which is not accessible at either colonoscopy or gastroscopy. The pill eventually is excreted, usually after 8-10 hours, and ends up somewhere in our vast sewerage system! The images on the data recorder are downloaded on to a computer and viewed using special software.
The purpose of capsule endoscopy is to try and identify sources of active or recurrent bleeding causing anaemia, after gastroscopy and colonoscopy have failed to identify a cause. Medicare covers the bulk of the cost of the procedure, but there are strict criteria to be met, since the technology is very expensive. Hence the procedure is not available to everyone.