The medical practice of gastroenterology encompasses treatment of diseases affecting the digestive system. The physician who specializes in treating disorders of the digestive system is called a gastroenerologist. During the initial office visit, the health care provider interviews the patient to gather personal and general health information.
The physician usually performs a physical examination to assess the patient’s health status. All of this information is documented on a history and physical examination record, which becomes a part of the patient’s medical record. When the initial evaluation is complete, a range of diagnostic tests may be used to further evaluate the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
One of the most commonly used diagnostic tools in assessing GI problems is the procedure known as endoscopy. This procedure involves the use of aflexible lighted instrument to examine the lining of the digestive tract. It is also commonly used to inspect the esophagus, stomach, intestines, and bile ducts.
Endoscopic examinations have made it possible to identify various pathological conditions, including cancers, at an early stage. In addition to endoscopy, x-rays, blood tests, and tissue biopsies may be used to establish or verify the initial findings of the physical examination.
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