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The Top Questions Gastroenterology Patients Have Before The First Visit

Did your primary care physician recommend gastroenterology treatments? If you're new to this specialty service, take a look at what you need to know about your first trip to the gastroenterologist.

What Is a Gastroenterologist?

A gastroenterologist is a physician specialist who works with disorders of the gastrointestinal (or GI) tract. These include medical conditions affecting the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, esophagus, liver, rectum, anus, pancreas, gallbladder, or pharynx.

Patients see gastroenterologists for a variety of reasons, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, ulcers, hepatitis, intestinal polyps, hemorrhoids, pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, colon or intestinal cancer, or any other GI tract issue or disorder.

What Does a Gastroenterologist Do?

The answer to this question depends on the reason for your office visit. These specialist doctors tackle a wide variety of GI issues and provide an array of assessment and treatment options.

Common procedures a GI doctor performs include diagnostic testing such as endoscopy (a scope is used to see into the upper portion of the GI tract), colonoscopy (a scope is used to see into the rectum and colon), sigmoidoscopy (a scope is used to see into the sigmoid colon), and biopsies.

Along with these types of diagnostic procedures, the doctor will conduct a physical examination, take a health history, and create a treatment plan. The specific treatment the doctor recommends depends on the results of your test and your individual needs.

What Happens During the First Office Visit?

Again, gastroenterologists see patients for a variety of reasons. The specific treatment you're given depends on what your individual health needs are and the doctor's assessment.

In general, a first visit will include an introduction, health history, and examination. The doctor will ask you to explain the reason for your visit (the current problem) and will want to know more about past problems and your overall health history. A health history includes both your own personal healthcare issues as well as those of immediate family members.

If the doctor needs additional information to make a diagnosis and treat you, they'll recommend testing. This could include in-office procedures (such as a sigmoidoscopy), procedures done at a hospital or gastroenterology center (such as an endoscopy or colonoscopy), or blood work.

Don't expect a complete diagnosis and treatment plan on your first visit. While some doctors can pinpoint precise problems immediately, if you require additional testing, the specialist will need to wait for the results before making any conclusions. For more information, speak with a professional like one at Frontier Gastroenterology & Hepatology who provides gastroenterology treatments.