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About Gastroenterology

Gastroenterology is the branch of medicine that focuses on the digestive tract and the gallbladder, liver, bile ducts, and pancreas. A gastroenterologist is a doctor that deals in those fields and is also referred to as a GI specialist or a GI doctor.

Gastroenterologists, sometimes called “gastros” for short,  are trained to diagnose and treat problems in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract and liver. These doctors also do routine procedures such as colonoscopies, which look at the inside of your colon. They get 5-6 years of specialized education after medical school. You will often see a gastro after a referral from your primary care doctor. 

  • Endoscopy: This procedure involves using a flexible tube with a camera (endoscope) to examine the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine. It can diagnose and treat conditions like ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and tumors.

  • Colonoscopy: A colonoscopy is used to visualize the entire colon and rectum. It is essential for screening and diagnosing conditions such as colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and polyps.

  • Upper Gastrointestinal (GI) Series: This X-ray procedure examines the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. It can detect issues like ulcers, reflux, and narrowing of the upper digestive tract.

  • Capsule Endoscopy: A small capsule containing a camera is swallowed to capture images of the small intestine, helping diagnose conditions like Crohn’s disease or small bowel tumors.

  • Liver Biopsy: This invasive procedure involves the removal of a small piece of liver tissue for examination. It helps diagnose liver diseases like hepatitis, cirrhosis, and fatty liver disease.

  • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): ERCP combines endoscopy and X-ray to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the bile ducts and pancreas, such as gallstones and tumors.

The first scientific studies of the digestive system were performed by Jan Baptist van Helmont in the 17th century. In 1833 the publication of William Beaumont’s observations shed new light on the nature of gastric juice and the digestive process in general.

Gastroenterology is the study of the normal function and diseases of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and liver. It involves a detailed understanding of the normal action (physiology) of the gastrointestinal organs including the movement of material through the stomach and intestine (motility), the digestion and absorption of nutrients into the body, removal of waste from the system, and the function of the liver as a digestive organ.

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