Video capsule endoscopy – the medical selfie by Joko and Klaas

15 minutes of entertainment of a special kind: the moderators Joko Winterscheidt and Klaas Heufer-Umlauf gave the audience an insight into their bodies last Wednesday. With the help of a video capsule endoscopy, the two filmed the way through the stomach – of course, little jokes like eating gummy bears weren’t missing.

What video capsule endoscopy is actually used for and why it has an important function in medicine.

Capsule endoscopy: how it works

A capsule endoscopy is a special examination of the digestive tract. It is done using a video capsule that takes pictures of the internal digestive organs.

The video capsule is about the size of a vitamin pill and has to be swallowed. The capsule consists of one or two small cameras, a small light source and a transmitter that transmits the recordings directly to a data recorder. The person being examined carries this with them.

The special feature: The capsule is the only non-invasive method to examine the entire small intestine from the inside. The advantage over  computed tomography  is that there is no exposure to radiation.

In order to determine narrowing of the small intestine and thus its patency, the patient is given a test capsule before the examination. This is similar in shape to the video capsule, but dissolves after about 30 hours and is equipped with a radio frequency coil.

If the test capsule is expelled, the preliminary examination was successful, but if it is lost, the frequency coil can be used to scan where the intestine is narrowed.

Before the examination, the intestines should be emptied and, ideally, nothing should be eaten for about six hours before the examination. During the examination, the affected person can move freely, work and drink clear, non-carbonated liquids.

The following areas can be examined using capsule endoscopy:

  • small intestine
  • colon
  • esophagus

After the capsule has passed the affected areas, the recorder can be put down. Experts then evaluate the video material at their leisure. The video capsule is excreted naturally and can subsequently be disposed of.

A video capsule endoscopy is not one of the common preventive examinations of the statutory health insurance companies. However, if an illness is suspected and a doctor recommends it, the costs of the examination can be covered.


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