Last updated: 12 December 2017
What is a gastroenterologist?
A gastroenterologist is a doctor who specialises in diseases that affect the gut.
What does a gastroenterologists treat?
A gastroenterologist treats any condition affecting the gut (gastrointestinal system), such as:
- Oesophagitis, gastritis, peptic ulcer disease and duodenal ulceration - all these conditions involve a degree of erosion or ulceration of the lining of the proximal gut generally causing pain, classically a burning, gnawing pain worse after eating.
- Inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis - these involve ulceration of the lower gut
- Liver problems such as hepatitis (inflammation of the liver from many different causes) and liver cirrhosis (scarring again from numerous possible causes)
- Malignancy (cancer) and benign (non-cancerous) tumours of the gut - like stomach and bowel cancer
- Investigation of bleeding from the gut, or abdominal pain
Procedures performed by a gastroenterologist
Treatment often involves medications. These may be short or long term. If an operation is required generally you will be referred to a surgeon. Some procedures a gastroenterologist performs include:
What to expect at your first visit with a gastroenterologist
Your gastroenterologist will begin by asking you about:
- The symptoms you have been getting
- Relieving and worsening factors
- Any previous tests and treatments
- Risk factors
- Other medical problems
- Social history
A gastroenterologist can determine a great deal about your condition, its likely cause and severity, by a general examination.
Before focussing on your gut (ie the tube that runs from mouth to anus) and abdomen they will observe you generally.
Finger nails, hands, skin, hair, eyes and mouth will be quickly explored to see if there are any clues to be found.
Next your gastroenterologist will examine your abdomen, feeling for masses or tenderness, sometimes percussing (tapping) or listening to determine the cause of your problems.
They usually end by examining your anus, an unpleasant but important part of the assessment.
From history and examination the gastroenterologist will have a short list of differential diagnoses - a list of several different illnesses that may have caused your symptoms.
They will also have a prioritised list of investigations (tests) that they feel will contribute most to your assessment and subsequent management.
Specialty areas of interest
- Endoscopy and colonoscopy
- Blood tests
- Helicobacter serology
- Iron studies
- Hepatitis serology
- Liver biopsy
Training and qualifications
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.