The medical specialty deals with digestive system diseases and associated organs, consisting of the esophagus, stomach, liver, bile ducts, pancreas, small intestine, etc.
Gastroenterology is an area of medicine that focuses on the health of the digestive system or the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Gastroenterologists can treat everything from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to hepatitis C. Here is what these specialists do and when you should consider seeing one.
What is a gastroenterologist?
These specialists mainly diagnose and treat gastrointestinal diseases in both men and women.
They perform endoscopic procedures, in which they use specialized instruments to see the gastrointestinal tract and make a diagnosis. They do not perform surgery. In some cases, they can work closely with a gastrointestinal surgeon. They mainly work in clinical or hospital settings.
The Gastrointestinal system:
- It digests and moves food.
- Absorbs nutrients
- Eliminate the waste of your body.
- Gastroenterologists can treat any part of this system.
- Although the GI system includes the mouth, these specialists generally do not provide care or services. In contrast, dentists and dental specialists focus on the health of the oral cavity.
Other parts of the GI system include:
- Small intestine.
- Large intestine.
- Salivary glands.
Proctologists also treat diseases of the rectum and anus.
What is gastroenterology?
Gastroenterology is a specialized area of medicine that focuses on the gastrointestinal tract. Some gastroenterologists treat general GI diseases. Others focus on a particular type of gastroenterology.
Some possible areas of emphasis are:
- Hepatology focuses on diagnosing and treating liver, gallbladder, biliary tree, and pancreas diseases.
- Pancreatic disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease or chronic inflammation of your digestive tract.
- Gastrointestinal cancer.
- Endoscopic surveillance.
- Reflux esophagitis is commonly due to gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Education and training requirements
To become a gastroenterologist, you must obtain a four-year college degree. Then, you must complete four years of medical school. After graduating from medical school, you must complete a three-year training program, called residency, in internal medicine.
He works together with experienced gastroenterologists and receives professional mentors during this time. After completing your residency, you must complete a two or three-year scholarship to receive more specialized training in this field.
This includes training in endoscopy, which is a non-surgical procedure that doctors use to examine the gastrointestinal tract.
Once you have completed your training, you must pass a gastroenterologist specialty certification exam. The American Board of Internal Medicine certifies you upon successful completion of the test.
What conditions do gastroenterologists treat?
These specialists treat a series of conditions that affect the GI system. This may include:
- Acid reflux
- Hepatitis C.
- Polyps, or growths, typically occur in the large intestine.
- Jaundice or yellowing of the skin.
- Stools with blood.
- Pancreatitis or a rare disease that causes inflammation of the pancreas.
- Colon cancer.
What procedures do gastroenterologists perform?
These specialists perform a variety of non-surgical procedures.
This may include:
- Endoscopic ultrasounds to examine the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract and other internal organs.
- Colonoscopies to detect colon cancer or colon polyps.
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography to identify gallstones, tumors, or scar tissue in the bile duct area.
- Sigmoidoscopies to evaluate blood loss or pain in the intestine.
- Liver biopsies to assess inflammation and fibrosis.
- Endoscopic capsules to examine the small intestine.
- Double balloon enteroscopy to explore the small intestine.
When should you see a gastroenterologist?
Your primary care doctor can refer you to this specialist if you:
- He has unexplained blood in his stool.
- He has difficulty swallowing without explanation.
- They are experiencing abdominal pain.
- If you are over 50 years old, you may also want to meet with a gastroenterologist to receive preventive care.
Men and women over 50 have a higher risk of colon cancer.
If you are in this age group, you should take periodic exams. If you have a family member with colon cancer, you should ask your doctor when to start receiving screening.
All specialists are competent in upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy. Most will be trained in lower GI endoscopy (flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy).
Some will have received additional training in hepatobiliary endoscopy (ERCP) or small bowel endoscopy (endoscopy with the wireless capsule or enteroscopy).
Most will participate in admissions of acute gastroenterology and will manage a wide range of gastrointestinal diseases, either outpatient or after entry.
Gastroenterologists treat conditions such as:
- Gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Gastrointestinal cancer.
- Anemia: A condition where the blood of hemoglobin (a pigment that carries oxygen) is below normal levels.
- Inflammatory bowel disease, for example, Crohn’s disease (inflammation of the lining of the digestive system) and ulcerative colitis (inflammation and ulceration of the lining of the rectum and colon).
- Short bowel syndrome.
- Jaundice: a condition in which the skin yellows due to an accumulation of bilirubin in the blood and tissues.
- Management of alcohol, viral hepatitis (inflammation of the liver caused by a virus), and autoimmune liver disorders (where the body attacks its cells).
- Diverticulitis: Inflammation of the diverticula (small pockets) in the intestine.
Common interventions in Gastroenterology
- Gastrointestinal endoscopy is high and low diagnostic and therapeutic.
- Endoscopy of the small intestine.
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography: an endoscopic technique used mainly to diagnose and treat conditions of the bile ducts and pancreatic duct.
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS).
- Intestinal and hepatic biopsy.
- Paracentesis (puncture of a cavity wall with a hollow needle).
- Insertion of parenteral nutrition line (intravenous feeding lines).
- Planning and monitoring of patients undergoing liver transplantation.