A Video Capsule Endoscopy (VCE) is an investigation which allows your small bowel to be viewed. This is past the point where traditional endoscopy, such as gastroscopy (looking in to your stomach) or colonoscopy (looking at your large bowel) can reach.

What is a VCE?

The VCE investigation involves swallowing a small capsule, about the size of a large jelly bean. The capsule contains a miniature camera that will pass naturally through your digestive system, taking pictures of the bowel. The camera sends information to a data recorder worn on a shoulder strap, this can be in the form of a sensor array (group of sensors), which is stuck to your skin with pads or worn as a sensor belt.

The battery within the camera lasts for about 12 hours and the capsule can take pictures for this length of time.

Why do I need to have a VCE?

You have been advised to have this procedure to try and find the cause of your symptoms, help with treatment and if necessary, to help decide on further investigations.

There are many reasons for having this investigation such as anaemia, weight loss, unexplained bleeding and diagnosis of inflammatory bowel conditions.

There are no alternatives to this procedure.

Before the procedure

To allow a clear view, your stomach needs to be empty of food, so please follow these instructions:

  • After midday (the day before your appointment) please eat a ‘sloppy diet’; soup would be suitable.
  • From midnight the night before drink water only.
  • If you take the medication in the morning that cannot be delayed please call 0300 422 2387 to discuss whether it can be taken before or after you have swallowed the capsule.

It is important to continue drinking water up to the time of the investigation.

On admission

  • You will be asked to sign a consent form. By signing this form you have agreed to have the investigation performed and that you understand why it is needed.
  • You will be asked to loosen your top garments. It is advisable to wear a button through top if possible, or T-shirt.
  • A sensor belt will be fitted while you are standing. Occasionally you may be asked to lie on an examination couch and adhesive pads will be placed on your abdominal wall as an alternative method.
  • The belt/sensory pads are connected to the data recorder. There is a strap attached to the recorder which allows it to be worn across the body like a satchel so that it is secure.
  • Once connected, you will then be asked to swallow the capsule, with water.

After swallowing the video camera (capsule)

You must drink at least 250 mls of water (1 glass) every hour. After 4 hours you can have a light snack such as a sandwich; 8 hours after swallowing the capsule you can eat and drink normally.

You will need to remove the recorder, shoulder strap and sensory belt/ pads after 12 hours. You will be shown how to do this. The pads and belt are disposable and can be thrown away but the data recorder must be returned to the hospital the following working day along with the satchel and strap.

On arrival at the hospital, please ask the volunteer at the reception desk, located at the Sandford Road entrance, to contact Dr Makins.

The capsule itself is disposable and will pass in your stools. It does not need to be retrieved and returned.


The most common recognised complication of this procedure is capsule retention which can happen if there is a narrow segment within the gut and the capsule cannot pass. Should the capsule become stuck (less than 1 in 1000 cases), then you may either need an endoscopy to remove it or in the worst case scenario, an operation.

If the capsule has not been seen to pass into the large bowel by the end of the recording, you may need an X-ray to determine whether the capsule is still in the bowel. Your doctor will tell you if this is necessary.

Capsule endoscopy is not usually performed on patients who are pregnant.

Going home

After you have swallowed the capsule, you will be able to go home or return to work.

Will I need further treatment?

Your referring consultant will contact you to discuss when you need to return to the clinic. The capsule endoscopy report will be forwarded to your referring consultant.


If you have any questions, you can contact:

Dr. Makins’ secretary

Tel: 0300 422 2387

Outside of office hours, you can contact the ‘on-call’

GI Consultant via the hospital switchboard.

Gloucestershire Hospitals Switchboard

Tel: 0300 422 2222

Printable version of this page

Having a Video Capsule Endoscopy (VCE) GHPI1247_08_21 Department: Endoscopy Review due: August 2024 PDF, 608.0 KB, 4 pages
Reference number GHPI1247_08_21
Department Endoscopy
Review due August 2024