Video capsule endoscopy

A video capsule endoscopy is a test to look at the inside small intestine (also known as the small bowel) for to identify and diagnose any abnormalities. This page from Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) explains about the Video Capsule Endoscopy (VCE) procedure, what it involves and what to expect when your child comes to GOSH for the test.

A capsule the size of a large jelly bean, containing a tiny camera and light is swallowed with a drink of water. As it travels through the digestive system, it transmits pictures of the lining of the gut to a recorder which is carried in a bag or on a belt. The test is carried out in the Gastroenterology Investigation Unit (GIU). Some children come to the GIU on the day of the test but others are already staying at GOSH.

At home or before the test

  • Please try getting your child to practise swallowing a large jelly bean. If your child is not able to do this, please inform a nurse from the Gastroenterology Investigations Unit (GIU) – the contact details are below.
  • Follow the liquid diet from 12 midday the day before the test
  • Your child should not eat or drink anything from 10pm the night before the test. This makes sure that there is a clear view of the inner lining of the small intestine.
  • Please bring in any medicines that your child is taking on the day of the test.
  • If your child becomes unwell before the test please phone the Gastroenterology Investigations Unit (GIU) on 020 7405 9200 extension 0212 to speak with a nurse. If your call is not answered, our nurses will be with another child so please leave a message and a member of the team will return your call within the next 24 hours.

​At the hospital

  • Your admission letter will inform you which ward to go to when you arrive at GOSH. Please note that some patients will be asked to attend the GIU within Kingfisher Ward, but other patients will need to go to another ward and then be transferred to the GIU.
  • Once you have been admitted to the GIU, a nurse will carry out some tests to ensure your child is fit for the procedure. These tests include checking their weight, blood pressure, and heart rate.
  • The nurse will explain the procedure a final time and will answer any further questions. If you are happy to proceed with the VCE test, we will ask you to sign a consent form.

Starting the test

  • Once you have signed the consent form the nurse will put eight electrodes or a specialised belt on your child’s stomach and connect them to the recorder carried in a bag or on a belt.
  • Your child will be given the capsule to swallow with a drink of water.

During the test

  • The camera will take pictures for around eight hours.
  • Your child should continue with normal activities and should be encouraged to walk during the eight hours.
  • Due to the length of the test we suggest that you consider an activity outside of the hospital such as visiting a museum or spending time in park – ask for a copy of our What’s on guide for suggestions.
  • A light food diet will be necessary whilst the test is taking place – the nurse will advise you of this on the day.
  • After eight hours the nurse will check the position of the capsule and remove the recorder when appropriate. You will be able to go home once the nurse has removed the recorder.
  • The pictures will be transferred onto a computer then are reviewed and analysed by a clinician.

When you are back home after the test

  • After 48 hours, the capsule should be passed out in your child’s faeces (poo). The capsule is disposable so you do not need to return it to us. You can flush it down the toilet safely.
  • If you do not spot the capsule being passed within 48 hours, please phone the GIU nurses for further advice. Your child should not have an MRI scan until we are sure the capsule has been passed.
  • We will discuss the results of the test at your next outpatient appointment.
  • If you child develops a high temperature, feels unwell or sick, or has a stomach ache after the test please contact either your family doctor (GP) or nearest Accident and Emergency department. Take your discharge summary with you as this has the details of the test.
Compiled by:
The Gastroenterology team in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group
Last review date:
July 2017