Because the body is complex and has so many working parts, there are areas of medicine where a doctor focuses on a specific part of the body. This is called specialized medicine, and there are many doctors in dozens of different specialized fields all over the map.
One of these fields, gastroenterology, is the study and treatment of the digestive organs in the human body. Doctors in this field, known as gastroenterologists, receive specialized medical training and devote their practice to preventing and treating all conditions of the gastrointestinal tract and the rest of the digestive system.
A large part of a gastroenterologist’s practice is preventive in nature – focused on staving off diseases like cancer, polyps, ulcers and others. This makes gastroenterology a vital part of Revere Health’s value-based care initiative, which focuses on preventive care and flexible, affordable healthcare solutions that directly address issues without over-prescribing or over-charging.
So what exactly is a gastroenterologist?
Gastroenterologists complete the same undergraduate medical programs as most doctors, but they complete two extra steps that add significant training:
- 1. Three-year residency in internal medicine
- 2. Specialized gastroenterology fellowship, generally lasting two or three years
Doctors receive training on everything including standard colonoscopy procedures to more specific testing and treatment. They learn how to treat patients in both an office and hospital setting.
By the end of training, a gastroenterologist has completed up to five or six years of preparation. They have training in general medicine and the skills to recognize and treat gastrointestinal conditions. Let’s take a look at some of the most common conditions they manage.
Conditions Gastroenterologists Treat
The human digestive system is complex, and gastroenterologists have a large number of moving parts to keep track of including:
- • Stomach
- • Small intestine
- • Esophagus
- • Colon
- • Rectum
- • Gallbladder
- • Bile ducts
- • Liver
- • Pancreas
All these various parts work together, and it’s the gastroenterologist’s job to know exactly how this works – which organs relate to each other, how they connect and, most importantly, how things look if they’re not functioning properly. Any disruption in the system can create larger problems, and gastroenterologists have to know how to spot changes from the norm.
Some of the most common diseases and conditions that gastroenterologists treat include:
- • Colon cancer and other cancers involving the digestive system
- • Colon polyps
- • Barrett’s esophagus
- • Hepatitis
- • Heartburn
- • Ulcers
- • Pancreatitis (and other conditions in the pancreas)
- • Inflammatory bowel diseases
- • Hepatobiliary disease
- • Swallowing disorders
- • Gastrointestinal infections
- • Gallbladder diseases
- • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
The full list of diseases that gastroenterologists treat helps prove just how important this medical field is.
Testing and Procedures
There are many kinds of tests or procedures a gastroenterologist may use. Some of the most common include:
- • Endoscopy: A procedure where your doctor inserts a flexible tube, with a light and camera on the end, into the digestive tract to view the inside of the digestive system. Endoscopy is a vital procedure for many people because of how many diseases and conditions it can help prevent before more serious and costly problems come up
- • Testing for GI motility disorders: These disorders include constipation, pH problems and issues ranging from the intestines to chest pain
- • Photodynamic therapy: For issues in the esophagus
- • Anorectal function testing: For fecal issues or constipation
- • Colonoscopy
- • Polypectomy: Removal of polyps
- • Dilation: Stretching of certain areas in the intestinal tract which have become too narrow
- • Tumor removal
- • Ultrasound
- • Placement of tubes or ducts
If you are experiencing any symptoms involving the gastrointestinal tract, consult your doctor.
If you need a colonoscopy, make an appointment with Revere Health. Our gastroenterologists have performed over 200,000 comprehensive colonoscopies. We use the latest technology and equipment to ensure accurate results.
“What is a Gastroenterologist?” American College of Gastroenterology. http://patients.gi.org/what-is-a-gastroenterologist/
“Gastroenterology and Hepatology.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/departments-centers/gastroenterology-hepatology/services