If you’re manifesting symptoms of a digestive condition that requires specialized care (e.g., persistent abdominal pain and cramping, weight loss, poor appetite, and diarrhea), your primary care physician will likely refer you to a gastroenterologist. A gastroenterologist (GI doctor) is a medical professional who has advanced training in the diagnoses, treatment, and prevention of all conditions that affect the digestive system.
To confirm a diagnosis, your gastroenterologist will do an extensive evaluation, which includes a thorough review of your medical history and symptoms, lab tests as well as a combination of medical imaging (e.g., CT scan, ultrasound, MRI) and specific procedure/s. There are cases when a gastroenterologist will perform the treatment within the same setting.
Below is an outline of a few of the most common procedures performed by gastroenterologists.
A colonoscopy is used to detect conditions affecting the large intestine (colon) and rectum. The procedure is commonly used as a screening tool for colorectal cancer.
During a colonoscopy, your gastroenterologist will insert a long, flexible viewing instrument (colonoscope) through your rectum up into your colon, to investigate for ulcers, tumors, polyps, obstructions, and other problems. If your gastroenterologist detects a polyp, they can perform a biopsy and remove the polyp during the procedure.
Upper Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
An upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy is a procedure for diagnosing and treating problems in your upper digestive system, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), blockages, and strictures.
During an upper GI endoscopy, your gastroenterologist will put a thin, flexible viewing instrument (endoscope) into your mouth, slowly slide it down your throat, then through your esophagus and stomach, all the way into your duodenum. Your GI doctor will then perform any or a combination of the following during the procedure:
- Dilatation of a constricted area
- Removal of objects that may be stuck in your upper GI tract
- Surgery or laser therapy
Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) utilizes a special endoscope with an ultrasound probe attached to it to evaluate and diagnose problems in the upper and lower digestive tract. The procedure allows your gastroenterologist to:
- view your internal structures and detect abnormal growths (e.g., tumors) in your pancreas;
- check for stones in your biliary ducts (structures responsible for transporting bile from your liver and gallbladder through your pancreas to your small intestine); and
- diagnose (i.e., perform a biopsy) and determine the stage of gastrointestinal cancer.
Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
ERCP is done to examine and check for abnormalities in your biliary system (liver, bile ducts, gallbladder, and pancreas). The procedure involves the use of an endoscope, which is guided by an X-ray.
During the procedure, your gastroenterologist will pass the endoscope through your mouth, then down your esophagus, stomach, all the way to your small intestine. Your doctor will then pass a very thin tube through the endoscope and administer a dye to highlight your organs on X-ray and thoroughly examine them for potential problems (e.g., tumors, blockages in the pancreatic ducts, infection in the bile ducts, etc.). Your GI doctor may also perform a biopsy and remove gallstones or blockages within the same procedure.
Gastroenterology Procedures in California
At inSite Digestive Health Care, our board-certified gastroenterologists combine their expertise and extensive experience with state-of-the-art technology to deliver unparalleled treatment outcomes for the full spectrum of digestive conditions.
To arrange a consultation with one of our GI experts, call our office nearest you. You may also use this request-an-appointment form. For your added convenience, we also offer telehealth visits. We look forward to helping you take better care of your digestive health!