Gastrology and Gastro surgery

What Is a Gastrology and Gastro Surgery?

A gastroenterologist is a medical doctor with a specialized understanding of the digestive tract. Gastroenterologists know about the functions and diseases of the stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder.

You may see a gastroenterologist if you’ve had ongoing belly troubles including pain, nausea, or bowel issues.

What Does a Gastroenterologist Do?

Gastroenterologists diagnose and treat digestive disorders including liver disease, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and cancers. Typically, the gastroenterologist starts by learning about your symptoms and doing an exam to find out if they can see, hear, or feel anything unusual.

The diagnostic process helps the gastroenterologist to determine what might be causing your symptoms. Once they have a diagnosis, they determine your treatment. You may need medication, surgery, or a referral to another specialist.

Reasons to See a Gastroenterologist

A gastroenterologist has the expertise to diagnose and treat conditions that affect digestion. There are many reasons why you might see a gastroenterologist:

Problems with Bowel Movements

Constipation and diarrhea affect almost everyone occasionally. However, if your bowel problems don’t resolve after a couple of days, you may need to see a doctor. A gastroenterologist can determine whether you need treatment to resolve your diarrhea or constipation.

Recurrent or Severe Abdominal Pain

Bellyaches are common, but sometimes they signal the need for a doctor’s care. If your abdominal pain lasts for more than a few days, comes back frequently, or is accompanied by nausea or bowel difficulties, a gastroenterologist might help you get to the root of the issue. Extremely severe pain, however, is a reason to visit the ER.

There are many different causes of belly pain, from a viral infection to something more serious like appendicitis.

Frequent Heartburn

Heartburn happens when stomach acid creeps up into your esophagus. It’s usually caused by a problem with the lower esophageal sphincter, the valve that’s supposed to keep food in your stomach.

Heartburn causes pain in the chest, difficulty swallowing, and a hot or acidic taste in the back of the throat. People tend to manage occasional heartburn at home, but frequent symptoms can indicate a chronic condition like Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or even cancer. A gastroenterologist can help you figure it out and get treatment.

What is gastrointestinal surgery?

Gastrointestinal surgery is a treatment for diseases of the parts of the body involved in digestion. This includes the esophagus (ee-sof-uh-gus), stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and rectum. It also includes the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.

Surgery may be used to remove a cancerous or noncancerous growth or damaged part of the body, such as the intestine. It may also be used to repair a problem like a hernia (a hole or weak spot in the wall of the abdomen). Minor surgical procedures are used to screen and diagnose problems of the digestive system.

Below are gastrointestinal conditions that may be treated with surgery:

  • Appendicitis. When the appendix becomes infected and inflamed, it may be removed (appendectomy).
  • Colon cancer and other gastrointestinal cancers. Surgery is done to remove cancerous tumors in the digestive system and parts of the digestive system that have cancer. For example, a surgeon may remove a tumor as well as part of the pancreas, liver, or intestine with cancer.
  • Diverticular disease. A diverticulum is a small pouch or pocket in the colon (large intestine). Researchers are not sure why these develop. Sometimes they can become inflamed and cause pain (diverticulitis). This is often managed without surgery. If someone has a lot of diverticula that often become inflamed, the doctor may recommend bowel resection surgery to remove that part of the intestine.
  • Gallbladder disease. When there is a problem with the gallbladder — usually gallstones — the gallbladder can be removed. Surgery to remove the gallbladder is also called a cholecystectomy (koh-luh-si-stek-tuh-mee).
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and hiatal hernias. GERD, or acid reflux is when the acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus (food pipe) and causes heartburn. Sometimes it happens because of a hiatal hernia. This is when the stomach pushes through the diaphragm, a muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. A surgeon can do a surgery called fundoplication (fun-doh-pluh-cay-shun) to fix it. The surgeon will fix the hernia if there is one and then wrap the top of the stomach around the bottom of the esophagus to strengthen the sphincter, which keeps acid out.
  • Hernia. A hernia is when a part of the body (like the intestine) comes through a hole or weak spot in the wall of muscle or connective tissue that’s supposed to protect it (like the abdomen). It doesn’t come through the skin, but a bulge may be felt under the skin that’s not supposed to be there. It can also be painful. Gastrointestinal surgeons can repair the hole or weak spot.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis). With inflammatory bowel disease, the immune system attacks the intestines and causes pain and inflammation. This can lead to damage in the intestine. Sometimes the damaged parts are removed and the healthy parts are reconnected. This is called bowel resection.
  • Rectal prolapse. Surgery is used to treat rectal prolapse, a condition in which part of the intestine comes through the anus.
  • Weight loss. Different types of bariatric surgery (for example, gastric bypass) may be done to treat obesity. This surgery is usually done by a specialist in bariatric surgery.

A surgical procedure called an endoscopy is used to screen and diagnose problems of the digestive system. The doctor puts a long, thin tube with a tiny camera into the body to see inside. If the problem is with the stomach or esophagus, the doctor puts the scope through the esophagus. To check for colon cancer or other problems of the intestines, the doctor puts the scope through the anus into the intestine.