Gastroenterology is the subspecialty of internal medicine concerned with disorders and conditions of the gastrointestinal ("GI") tract, also called the digestive tract. More specifically, gastroenterologists are concerned with the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines (colon), pancreas and liver.
Gastroenterologists focus on adults. Their role is to prevent, diagnose and treat conditions and disorders of the GI tract in adult patients. But as broadly trained internists, they may also perform a general physical check-up. If a condition is found that falls within gastroenterology, they will provide the treatment. If it requires the services of another physician, they will refer you appropriately. Gastroenterologists may perform routine laboratory studies for patients undergoing a complete office examination.
When you need a gastroenterologist?
Not everyone who suffers from digestive problems needs a gastroenterologist. Many digestive disturbances are diagnosed and managed well by general internists, surgeons and others. Their skills are most necessary when special knowledge in diagnosis and treatment is required.
Gastroenterologists do not perform surgery. They may, however, perform procedures such as liver biopsy and examinations of the esophagus, stomach, small and large bowel, through the use of special flexible medical instruments called endoscopes.
If surgery is required, they work with surgeons to select the best operation for a patient and provide medical care following surgery.