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What does a gastroenterologist do?

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A gastroenterologist diagnoses and manages conditions of the gastrointestinal tract and liver, explains the American College of Gastroenterology. This type of physician is trained in the functioning of organs, including the stomach, esophagus, small intestine, gallbladder and colon. Issues pertaining to the bile ducts and pancreas are also evaluated by gastroenterologists.

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Examples of conditions a gastroenterologist may treat include irritable bowel syndrome, hepatitis, gastroesophageal reflux, gallbladder disease and peptic ulcer disease. Patients with nutritional deficiencies and certain types of cancer are also sometimes referred to a gastroenterologist. Studies demonstrate that gastroenterologists are generally more adept at performing colonoscopies than other types of physicians who provide the same service, resulting in more accurate diagnosis of abnormalities such as colon polyps and cancer, according to ACG.

Following medical school, a doctor must complete a three-year residency in internal medicine followed by a gastroenterology fellowship to become a practicing gastroenterologist, notes ACG. The fellowship usually lasts between two and three years, meaning the average gastroenterologist has a total of five to six years of specialized medical training. One key feature of gastroenterology training is expert instruction in endoscopy, a diagnostic procedure involving the use of lighted tubes with attached cameras to see inside a patient's intestinal tract. Other procedures gastroenterologists are trained to perform include polypectomy and hemostasis.

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