What is gastroenterology?
Gastroenterology is a branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis, treatment, and study of diseases that affect the digestive system, particularly the stomach and intestines. On average, the problems that arise in the digestive system are the most frequent cause of illness and hospitalization.
The most frequent pathologies for which a gastroenterological examination are needed are:
- gastroesophageal reflux disease
- irritable colon syndrome
- celiac disease
In recent decades the pathologies attributable to the sphere of gastroenterology have become increasingly numerous and with increasingly specific symptoms giving extreme importance to the development and growth of this medical specialization and the role of the medical gastroenterologist.
The most frequent symptoms for which a specialist visit is necessary are burning or stomach cramps, digestive difficulties, nausea, and constipation – all symptoms that should not give rise to particular concerns, but which require careful analysis when they become chronic or tend to occur frequently.
What is a gastroenterological examination?
The gastroenterological examination is used to identify diseases of all the organs involved in the digestive process such as the oesophagus, the stomach, the small intestine, the liver, the pancreas, the colon, the rectum, the anal canal, etc.
A gastroenterological examination may be required for a large number of symptoms including heartburn, stomach ache, nausea, diarrhoea, and dyspepsia. All these symptoms do not need any particular medical intervention. The intervention which, however, becomes necessary if they occur very frequently or when they assume a chronic appearance, as they can be an alarm bell for specific pathologies that require adequate specialized treatments.
In order to undergo a gastroenterological examination, no particular precautions are required: for example, it is not necessary to appear in fasting, as the first phase of analysis, will be based solely on a patient’s data collection.
Furthermore, if the patient owns previous clinical documentation, it is advised, during the first visit, to take it with him to help the doctor outline a more transparent overview.
The gastroenterological examination has an average duration of about 40 minutes, but, in certain situations, it can last even longer than 60 minutes.
During the first part of the visit, the gastroenterologist will carry out a simple verbal evaluation in order to outline an overall picture.
All the information regarding the patient will be collected: the clinical history, the lifestyle, the presence of already known pathologies, smoking habit, diet, etc.
The problems presented and the ways in which they occur will be analyzed later.
In the second part of the visit, the doctor will perform palpation and auscultation of the abdomen to assess the health of the individual organs.
If no specific problems are found, the doctor can make a diagnosis and subject the patient to therapy.
Otherwise, the gastroenterologist can request further specific tests from the patient, in order to gather more information for the formulation of a more precise and complete diagnosis. The assessments that can be requested are –
- Laboratory examinations of blood, stool, and urine
- Endoscopy or colonoscopy to examine the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract.
- X-rays and CT scans
What are endoscopy and colonoscopy?
Digestive endoscopy is a diagnostic and therapeutic technique that allows a direct view of the inside of some organs. This method enables to verify the possible presence of alterations or lesions and to perform small interventions such as polyp removal, arresting bleeding in the stomach, palliation of advanced tumours, cauterizations, biopsies.
Instruments known as endoscopes consisting of a small flexible tube inside which there are very fine optical fibres are inserted into the body through natural cavities: the mouth or anus, depending on the area to be explored. The most commonly performed tests with this technique are gastroscopy to study the oesophagus, stomach, and duodenum, and colonoscopy to visualize the intestine.
There are a plethora of extremely reputed doctors in this field in India. Some of the most well-known names in this field are –
- Dr. Ajay Kumar at Institute for Digestive & Liver Diseases at BLK Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi
2. Dr. B Prabhakar at Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad
3. Dr. Randhir Sud at Medanta The Medicity, Gurgaon
4. Dr. Deepak Govil at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi
5. Dr. Aabha Nagral at Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai