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What Is a Gastroenterologist?

A gastroenterologist is a specialist in the digestive system.

What Illnesses are treated by Gastroenterologist's?

In addition to rare disorders of the digestive system, gastroenterologists diagnose or treat the following common conditions:

  • Colorectal cancer, including determining whether you have a genetic risk
  • Viral hepatitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Diverticulitis, diverticulosis and ischemic bowel disease
  • Celiac disease and food intolerances
  • Heartburn and GERD
  • Chronic vomiting and gastroparesis
  • Functional illness, such as constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, belching and flatulence
  • Peptic ulcer disease and Helicobacter pylori
  • Acute and chronic pancreatitis
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Barretts Esophagus
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Cirrhosis
  • GI infections caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa

What type of tests are performed by a Gastroenterologist?

Gastroenterologists use a number of techniques to view the organs of the digestive tract. The most common tests they perform are colonoscopy and upper-GI endoscopy.

Colonoscopy is performed to examine the large intestine for disease, most commonly colorectal cancer. Everyone age 50 and older should be screened for colorectal cancer. When performing a colonoscopy, the gastroenterologist uses a long, thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera and a light on the end — called the colonoscope — to view the entire colon and rectum and check for polyps, inflammatory changes or cancer. If polyps are found, they often can be removed with this procedure.

Endoscopy can be helpful in the evaluation or diagnosis of various problems, including difficult or painful swallowing, pain in the stomach or abdomen, bleeding, ulcers, tumors, and problems with the gallbladder, pancreas and bile ducts. An endoscope is a long, thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera and light on the end. By adjusting the controls on the endoscope, the gastroenterologist can safely guide the instrument to carefully examine the inside lining of the upper digestive system. In some cases, GIs can treat digestive conditions through the endoscope.

Some gastroenterologists perform newer tests to examine the GI tract, such as CT colonography where the GI doctor can inspect radiological images of the colon to check for polyps and cancers, and capsule endoscopy, during which the patient swallows a camera that records images of the GI tract.

For digestive health issues, it’s best to see a doctor who specializes in the digestive tract — a gastroenterologist

How long should my appointment take?

In most cases your first encounter with our office will include a complete history, physical examination and blood tests, if appropriate. This takes approximately one hour. Follow-up visits will be scheduled at appropriate intervals. These visits usually require from 15-30 minutes, depending upon the complexity of your problem.

Will I be put to sleep for my procedure?

Intravenous sedation will be administered to you before and during your procedure. The sedation is intended to keep you comfortable during your endoscopic exam. However, many patients will have no recollection of the procedure because of the "amnesia" effect of the sedatives. The effects of the medication may last as long as 24 hours.

How often will I need to have this colonoscopy?

The frequency of colonoscopy is determined by an individual's risk for colon cancer. This is influenced by family history and the presence or absence of colon polyps on your initial or subsequent exams.