What is a Gastroenterologist?

A gastroenterologist is a medical physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases.

A gastroenterologist must first receive a medical degree (MD or DO) and then complete a medical residency before committing to 2-3 years in a gastroenterology fellowship. The fellowship training provides in-depth training in the management of gastrointestinal disorders and the performance of diagnostic endoscopy procedures, such as colonoscopy.

After completing medical training, a gastroenterologist may be board-certified by the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery.

Gastrointernal Disorders Treated by Gastroenterologists

Gastroenterologists diagnose or treat the following conditions:

  • Colorectal cancer
  • Viral hepatitis, including A, B and C.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis (UC)
  • Diverticulitis and diverticulosis
  • Celiac disease
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • Functional illness, such as constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, belching and flatulence
  • Ulcers, including peptic ulcer disease and Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gallstones
  • Appendicitis
  • Obesity
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Liver cirrhosis

Procedures Performed by a Gastroenterologist

Gastroenterologists perform a variety of procedure to assess the health of the digestive tract and perform tests. Commonly performed procedures include the following:

  • Colonoscopy. When performing a colonoscopy, the gastroenterologist uses a long, thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera and a light on the end — called the colonoscope — to view the entire colon and rectum and check for polyps, inflammatory changes or cancer. If polyps are found, they often can be removed with this procedure.
  • Endoscopy. An endoscope is a long, thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera and light on the end. By adjusting the controls on the endoscope, the gastroenterologist can safely guide the instrument to carefully examine the inside lining of the upper digestive system. In some cases, gastroenterologists can treat digestive conditions through the endoscope.
  • CT colonography is the use of a CT scan to inspect the colon to check for polyps and cancers
  • Capsule endoscopy examines the GI tract by swallowing a camera that records images of the GI tract.

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Last updated: 5/13/2022