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The American College of Gastroenterology describes this medical specialty as follows:
Gastroenterology is the study of the normal function and diseases of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and liver. It involves a detailed understanding of the normal action (physiology) of the gastrointestinal organs including the movement of material through the stomach and intestine (motility), the digestion and absorption of nutrients into the body, removal of waste from the system, and the function of the liver as a digestive organ. It includes common and important conditions such as colon polyps and cancer, hepatitis, gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn), peptic ulcer disease, colitis, gallbladder and biliary tract disease, nutritional problems, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and pancreatitis. In essence, all normal activity and disease of the digestive organs is part of the study of Gastroenterology.
This same professional organization defines a "Gastroenterologist" as "a physician with dedicated training and unique experience in the management of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and liver." From the word "gastrointestinal" we get the common abbreviation for these physicians -- GI doctors.
While Gastroenterologists are not surgeons in the usual sense, they frequently perform biopsies and remove small polyps and tumors using flexible, lighted telescopes inserted into one end of the gastrointestinal tract or the other (such as the colonoscope that is used to do colonoscopy). So even though many people think of these procedures as ways to diagnose problems, they may also be part of the treatment. However, GI doctors also work very closely with the surgeons that perform major gastrointestinal procedures (such as removal of sections of the intestines).
The gastroenterologists on the Medical Staff at Chester County Hospital are all trained to diagnose and treat the various gastrointestinal problems described above. While some of the more frequently-occurring GI disorders such as heartburn, ulcers and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are often managed by primary care physicians, these doctors must often rely on gastroenterologists for help with the uncommon problems, or with the common ones that are difficult to control. As always, interdisciplinary cooperation is essential to crafting a unique solution for each patient.
For more information about gastroenterologists on the Medical Staff at Chester County Hospital, call our Physician Referral Service at 800-789-PENN (7366) or visit the Find a Doctor section of our website.
Last Updated: 2/10/2014