What is a Gastroenterologist?

A gastroenterologist is a physician who has specific training in diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

This may include diseases and disorders that affect the the biliary system (liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts), as well as the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine (colon).

What does a Gastroenterologist do?

Gastroenterology is a subspecialty of internal medicine, and gastroenterologists are experts in the conditions and diseases of the digestive tract (not syndromes or symptoms).

A gastroenterologist listening to a patient describe the discomfort he is experiencing in his GI tract.

When suffering from a problem of the digestive tract, most people will initially make an appointment with their primary physician. If symptoms interfere with normal daily activities, the physician will run some standard tests. If no answers are found, they will refer their patient to a gastroenterologist for further investigation.

Gastroenterologists specialize in the evaluation, diagnosis, management, and treatment of the following symptoms and conditions:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bleeding in the digestive tract
  • Colorectal cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer
  • Constipation and diarrhea
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Diverticular disease
  • Polyps
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Colitis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Heartburn
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Hiatal hernias
  • Gastritis
  • Liver disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Stomach upset, nausea, vomiting
  • Ulcers

A gastroenterologist may perform specific diagnostic tests, either in a hospital or an outpatient clinic, such as:

A colonoscopy
A test used to examine the colon or the large intestine and the rectum for abnormalities. It involves using a colonscope, which is a flexible tube with a camera at the end, allowing the specialist a detailed view of the inside of the colon. Colonoscopies are used to diagnose colon cancer and colon polyps. Often, the gastroenterologist will remove suspicious polyps and tissues during the procedure.

An endoscopy
Uses an endoscope, which is a small flexible tube with an attached camera. Unlike a colonscope, which is passed through the rectum, the gastroenterologist will pass an endoscope through the mouth in order to see the upper digestive system. The specialist will use this test to diagnose problems of the stomach, gallbladder, esophagus, and other upper gastrointestinal organs, and will use the results of the test to come up with an effective treatment plan.

Gastroenterologists may also do other imaging work of the GI tract, such as an ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, and an X-ray, and will perform studies that assess the motility of the digestive tract. They may also use a 'pill camera', where a capsule the size and shape of a pill containing a tiny camera is swallowed by the patient. The camera takes pictures of the inside of the gastrointestinal tract.

Sometimes, a gastrointestinal abnormality may only be corrected through surgery. In these cases, the gastroenterologist will typically refer a patient to a GI surgeon to perform the procedure. After the surgery has been completed, the patient may return to the gastroenterologist to see if ongoing treatment will be needed.

Are you suited to be a gastroenterologist?

Gastroenterologists have distinct personalities. They tend to be enterprising individuals, which means they’re adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic. They are dominant, persuasive, and motivational. Some of them are also artistic, meaning they’re creative, intuitive, sensitive, articulate, and expressive.

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What is the workplace of a Gastroenterologist like?

Gastroenterologists usually care for patients in an office or hospital setting, including nursing homes and outpatient surgical centres.

They often serve as consultants to other physicians and may work in the research field.

Gastroenterologists are also known as:
GI Specialist Gastrointestinal Specialist