What Does a Gastrointestinal Surgeon Do?
Gastrointestinal surgeons diagnose and treat digestive disorders. Read on to find out more about how they can benefit you. Dr. Alfred B Johnson MD is an experienced gastrointestinal surgeon and can help with your digestive health. For more information, call us or schedule an appointment. We are conveniently located at 240 East 13th Street Merced, CA 95341.
Table of Contents:
What is a gastrointestinal surgeon?
What services do gastrointestinal surgeons provide?
What are the most common signs and symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders?
When should I see a gastrointestinal surgeon?
A gastrointestinal surgeon is a physician who has specialized training in the management of diseases and conditions that affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract – esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts – and the liver. They undergo 5 to 6 years of intense, specialized training following medical school in order to qualify as a gastrointestinal and, once qualified, they often work closely with other healthcare professionals such as hepatologists, who specialize in the liver; radiologists, who specialize in diagnostic or screening imaging; or oncologists, who specialize in cancer.
Alongside their expertise in diagnosing and treating a wide variety of conditions, the gastrointestinal surgeons also provide specialized services which include:
• Colorectal cancer screening – looking for cancer or polyps prior to symptoms showing. Several procedures are used in colorectal cancer screening:
• Colonoscopy – enables the entire colon and rectum to be examined and is used to look for early signs of cancer in the colon and rectum, as well as inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulosis, abnormal bleeding, changes in bowel habits, and unexplained abdominal pain. Polyps and flat lesions can be removed during a colonoscopy.
• Flexible Sigmoidoscopy – uses a sigmoidoscope (a thin, lighted instrument) and is similar to a colonoscopy but the doctor examines a smaller amount of the lower colon (about 2 feet) and the rectum. If a precancerous growth is found, a colonoscopy should be scheduled for its removal.
• Fecal occult blood test – checks for minute amounts of blood in the stool. One of the symptoms of colon cancer is chronic blood loss in the stool which is sometimes so minimal that it can go unnoticed. There are two types of tests, called the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) and the guaiac test; of the two, the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is the better one. Either test is performed on an annual basis and if either shows a positive result a colonoscopy should be done for further investigation.
• Computerized topographic (CT) colonography and magnetic resonance (MR) colonography – These two tests are fairly new methods, performed by radiologists, that allow the doctor to look for colorectal polyps and cancers inside the body without having to do a colonoscopy or barium swallow.
• Fecal DNA testing – Colorectal cancers contain abnormal DNA which is present in the stool. A stool sample is checked, and a colonoscopy is performed if any is found.
• Endoscopy – a procedure involving the insertion of a tiny camera at the end of a long flexible tube down the throat and into the esophagus.
• Endoscopic foreign body removal
• Polypectomy – removal of polyps from the inside of the colon
• Laparoscopic surgery – minimally invasive surgery performed through several small incisions in the abdomen with the aid of a camera.
• Esophageal dilation – a procedure used to widen an area of the esophagus that has become narrowed, most commonly caused by scarring due to acid reflux.
The most common signs and symptoms of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders are heartburn, indigestion (dyspepsia), bloating, and constipation. Different conditions will have one or another of these symptoms, or a combination of both. Some of the common GI conditions and their associated symptoms are as follows:
• Acid reflux/heartburn/gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD):
heartburn and regurgitation (fluid or food coming up into the chest.
• Indigestion: uncomfortable fullness after eating, burning pain in the upper abdomen.
• Peptic ulcer disease: upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or feeling bloated
• Gallstones: abdominal or chest pain, nausea, vomiting, sweating
• Inflamed gallbladder: fever, chills, severe abdominal pain, or jaundice
• Gallstone pancreatitis: pain – often severe – in the upper left abdomen or the back – nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, sweating, jaundice.
• Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): stomach pain with bowel movements, diarrhea and/or constipation, increased gas, bloating.
If you have concerns such as
• unexplained blood in your stool
• unexplained difficulty in swallowing
• abdominal pain
• problems with digestion such as constant diarrhea or constipation
• acid reflux or heartburn
• nausea and/or vomiting
You should first see your primary care provider who will likely refer you to a gastrointestinal surgeon for further evaluation. Also, there can be an increased risk of colon cancer for those over 50 years of age, particularly if there is a family history of the disease, so it might also be a good idea to meet with a gastrointestinal surgeon for preventive care. Be sure to also let your primary care provider know if there is colon cancer in your family.
If you would like to know more about the services we provide, call us or schedule an appointment. We are conveniently located at 240 East 13th Street Merced, CA 95341. We serve patients from Merced CA, Atwater CA, Winton CA, Bear Creek CA, Planada CA, Le Grand CA, and Athlone CA.