What is Clinical Gastroenterology?

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  • Written By: Marisa O'Connor
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2019
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Clinical gastroenterology is the study and treatment of diseases of the digestive system. Doctors who specialize in the study and treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract as well as its healthy functioning are called gastroenterologists. The primary diagnostic tool of gastroenterology is the endoscope, which can detect disorders such as cancer, polyps, and colitis, among others.

Clinical gastroenterology is a specialist field of Western medicine. The doctors who specialize in this field are called clinical gastroenterologists. Gastroenterologists are required to complete a bachelor's degree and continue their education with a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree. After education is completed, these doctors must complete a Gastroenterology Fellowship in order to finalize their expertise.

A comprehensive understanding of the normal and healthy functioning of the gastrointestinal tract is the first task of clinical gastroenterology. In order to identify disease and disorders of the digestive system, it is critical to first understand how the organs and systems of digestions are supposed to function. This field encompasses the study of healthy and diseased states of the esophagus, stomach, and pancreas, among many other organs.

Clinical gastroenterology applies to many different digestive disorders. Some of the most common of these digestive disorders include colon polyps, cancer, and irritable bowel syndrome. It also involves the study and treatment of diseases of the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas, such as hepatitis, gallbladder and biliary tract disease, and pancreatitis. Nutrient absorption and nutritional problems are also the concern of gastroenterology.


One of the primary diagnostic tools of clinical gastroenterology is the colonoscopy. A colonoscopy involves a long, thin tube with a camera and light attached to the end called an endoscope. The endoscope is inserted in the anus and slowly and gently worked into the colon and large intestines while the patient is sedated. With this tool, the gastroenterologist can see any polyps, bleeding, or other symptoms of digestive diseases. The endoscope also allows the doctor to remove polyps and take tissue samples from the digestive tract.

Another similar diagnostic tool of clinical gastroenterology is the upper endoscopy. The upper endoscopy uses the same endoscope tool that the colonoscopy requires, but this time it is inserted in the mouth instead of the anus. From the mouth, the endoscope is slowly and gently worked into the esophagus and stomach. The upper endoscopy can detect polyps, heartburn, and ulcers. The endoscope can remove polyps and take tissue samples of the stomach to determine if a bacterial infection is present. When swallowing problems are present due to a narrowing of the esophagus, the endoscope may be used to stretch the esophagus with a dilator or balloon.


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