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PillCam Capsule Endoscopy

Small Bowel Resource Center

About the Small Bowel

The small bowel, also known as the small intestine, connects the stomach to the large intestine.  The small bowel performs many functions including food digestion and absorption of essential nutrients from food into the body. Common conditions within the small bowel include Crohn’s disease, iron deficiency anemia (IDA) and obscure gastrointestinal bleeding (OGIB).  Inflammation, lesions, ulcers and bleeding impair the digestion process and disturb normal absorption of nutrients, resulting in various symptoms.

Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease is a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the lining of the small intestine wall and can affect any part of the digestive tract.  Symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss and rectal bleeding. 
Here are some basic facts about Crohn’s disease:
  • 75% of Crohn’s patients have lesions in their small bowel1
  • Roughly 500,000 Americans suffer from Crohn's disease, and about 20 percent have a direct relative with some form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)2
  • Crohn’s disease affects men and women equally
  • While the cause is unknown, the most popular theory is that the immune system is reacting to a virus or bacterium that causes inflammation3
  • Depending on the severity, treatment options include nutritional supplements, drugs and surgery. There is currently no cure for the disease4

Iron deficiency anemia (IDA)

Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is a common type of anemia in which the patient lacks adequate healthy red blood cells.5 Lack of iron in the blood affects the body's ability to carry oxygen and results in feeling tired, weak, irritable and lightheaded. The causes of IDA vary but can include loss of blood, pregnancy, inadequate diet, the inability to absorb iron from food and internal bleeding due to a bleeding ulcer, a colon polyp or colon cancer.6

Obscure GI Bleeding (OGIB)

Obscure gastrointestinal bleeding (OGIB) is unexplained blood loss from the digestive tract. This condition falls into two categories: (1) Obscure overt which is seen as red blood in the stool without the source of the blood loss has not been identified; (2) Obscure occult is unrecognized blood loss from the GI tract without overt signs of bleeding, usually discovered from chemical testing such as a fecal occult blood test (FOBT).  There are many potential causes of OGIB, however, in approximately half of patients with OGIB, the source of bleeding is unexplained.8
1 Long MD, Barnes E, Isaacs K, Morgan D, Herfarth HH. Impact of capsule endoscopy on management of inflammatory bowel disease: a single tertiary care center experience. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2011;17(9):1855-62.
2 Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (
3 National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (