Gastroenterologists are internists or doctors trained in internal medicine who specialize in problems concerning your digestive tract. Some of the most common conditions they deal with are diarrhea, constipation, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), and ulcers.
You may consider consulting with a gastroenterologist if you have symptoms concerning any digestive system structure between the esophagus and rectum. On the first consult, you can expect your doctor to ask questions regarding your symptoms. A physical exam and specialized tests may follow. To help you prepare, let’s talk about what you can expect from your first visit.
Your primary care doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist for further assessment of your condition. You may see your doctor in a hospital or outpatient clinic. The first appointment will take 30 minutes to an hour to complete. During your first visit with your gastroenterologist, they will ask you about your family and personal health history, symptoms, previous treatments, and medications.
To make the most out of your first appointment, be sure to bring all the necessary documents or notes about your health history. Likewise, prepare questions you want to ask your gastroenterologist and remember to take notes.
Questions to Expect from Your Gastroenterologist
Expect your gastroenterologist to ask you detailed questions about your condition. For them to give you an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment, it’s vital that you answer them as correctly as you can. It is also helpful if you took note of your symptoms and any over-the-counter medications you take.
The following are some of the questions your doctor can ask:
- What are the symptoms (pain, bloating, heartburn, bleeding) you experience?
- What triggers the symptoms?
- When do the symptoms start? When do they get better or worse?
- Where do you feel the symptoms?
- What is the intensity of pain?
- How often and for how long do you feel the signs and symptoms?
- Does the pain move or change location?
- Do you have a family history of digestive diseases or related health problems?
- Do you have a history of gastrointestinal illnesses or surgery?
After inquiring about your medical history, your gastroenterologist will conduct a physical exam, which includes:
- Observation of your belly area. Your doctor will check your abdomen for signs that may indicate abnormalities, like visible masses or surgical scars with bulges.
- Auscultation of bowel sounds. The gastroenterologist will listen to each abdominal quadrant for bowel sounds or bruits (vascular sounds linked with turbulent blood flow). Your doctor will note the duration, pitch, and intensity of the sounds.
- Palpation of the four quadrants in your belly area. This is done to feel around for masses or tenderness. You may be asked to take a deep breath or cough, or explain if palpation elicits pain.
- Rectal exam. Your gastroenterologist will feel for bulges, masses, signs of inflammation, and muscle tone.
Additional Diagnostic Tests
Your doctor may ask you to undergo additional tests after a physical examination to rule out other possible conditions. These tests may include:
- CT scan
- Blood or stool exam
- Barium swallow or enema You will be asked to swallow barium liquid and take an X-ray to highlight different parts of the digestive system.
- Upper GI endoscopy A tube with a light and camera at the end (endoscope) will be passed through the mouth to better view your upper digestive tract. This is usually performed for patients with GI complaints such as vomiting and heartburn, as well as to perform biopsies.
- Colonoscopy A tube with a camera is passed through the rectum to visualize the lower digestive tract better. Colonoscopy is usually done for patients with bloody stools, as well as to screen for colorectal cancer.
Depending on whether you need additional tests, your doctor will schedule a follow-up visit to discuss the results and possible treatment plan with you.
Top-Notch Gastroenterologists in California
Visiting a gastroenterologist for the first time may be nerve-wracking for some. You have to prepare for it in order to make the most of your visit. Likewise, it’s important to consult with a provider who values quality and safety and can provide personalized care.
At inSite Digestive Health Care, we are dedicated to giving you the cost-effective and high-quality care you deserve. For your convenience, you may visit any of our offices located across California. You can also choose the right gastroenterologist for you and request an appointment online. We look forward to serving you!