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Gastroenterology

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Akron General's gastroenterologists are physicians who specialize in disorders and conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, including Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or Heartburn, Ulcers and Colorectal Cancer. Gastroenterologists treat all problems of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine (colon), rectum, liver, pancreas and gall bladder. Read on for more information on common GI problems and treatment.

The most common problems associated with the GI tract include GERD or Heartburn, Ulcers and Colorectal Cancer.

Advanced Technology for Faster Diagnosis
Akron General now offers two types of testing for gastric disorders using the newest technology for patient comfort and convenience. The first is the BravoTM pH Monitoring System, which uses a small capsule, about the size of a gelcap to collect and transmit data. This enables physicians to analyze esophageal pH levels and gastric reflux during the patient's every day activities. Abnormal pH levels are often a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

The second of these technologies is the Givens capsule. It's a tiny camera that allows physicians to see the entire small intestine, helping in the diagnosis of a range of small bowel diseases, like Crohn's disease, gastrointestinal bleeding and more. Akron General Medical Center is one of the only hospitals in the area to offer these technologies.

Surgeons and gastroenterologists perform endoscopy procedures at Akron General Medical Center. Patients must have a referral by their physician for an endoscopy procedure.

Other departments or services, which may be involved in your care:

Endoscopy

Nutrition

McDowell Cancer Center

Surgery


Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux refers to the backward flow of acid from the stomach up into the esophagus. Reflux is also known as heartburn or acid indigestion when excessive amounts of acid reflux into the esophagus. It is often described as a burning chest pain from the breastbone up to the neck and throat with a bitter taste in the throat, lasting up to two hours. GERD is most common among older adults and pregnant women.

Diagnosis & Treatment
In some cases, acid indigestion can be controlled by diet modification and the proper use of over-the-counter medications. It is important to avoid the foods and beverages that contribute to acid indigestion, including chocolate, coffee, peppermint, greasy or spicy foods, tomato products and alcohol. Tobacco also stimulates stomach acid production, so quitting smoking often reduces or eliminates symptoms.

When symptoms of acid indigestion are not controlled with lifestyle modifications, a visit to a gastroenterologist is necessary to prevent further complications. The following tests may be conducted to determine if symptoms are caused by acid reflux or a complication of reflux.

  • Upper GI X-ray, or Barium Esophagram (X-rays of the digestive tract)
  • Endoscopy (insertion of a small lighted flexible tube through the esophagus and stomach to examine for abnormalities)
  • Esophageal Manometry or Esophageal pH (measures pressure and function of the esophagus, as well as the degree of acid refluxed, through a small flexible tube inserted through the nose into the esophagus and stomach)
  • When acid cannot be controlled with medication, anti-reflux surgery may be recommended. Anti-reflux surgery improves the natural barrier between the stomach and the esophagus.

Ulcers

An ulcer is an area of the stomach that has been destroyed by digestive juices and stomach acid. Most ulcers are no larger than a pencil eraser, but they can cause tremendous discomfort and pain. The most common symptom of an ulcer is a burning pain in the abdomen located between the navel and the bottom of the breastbone. Less common symptoms of an ulcer include nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite and weight.

There are two major causes of ulcers. Patients with ulcers are often infected with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and have a genetic predisposition to ulcers. Others who develop ulcers are usually regular users of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

Diagnosis & Treatment
In many cases, ulcer pain can be reduced or eliminated through diet modifications or prescription acid-blocking medicine. If symptoms persist, your gastroenterologist will often conduct an Upper GI X-ray or Endoscopy.

  • Upper GI X-ray, or Barium Esophagram (X-rays of the digestive tract)
  • Endoscopy (insertion of a small lighted flexible tube through the esophagus and stomach to examine for abnormalities)

There are several tests available to detect the presence of H. pylori, including blood samples, a breath test or a stomach biopsy.

Patients with ulcers must avoid foods that worsen symptoms and quit smoking, as smoking has been shown to inhibit ulcer healing and is linked to ulcer recurrence. Ulcer patients should not take aspirin or ibuprofen. When lifestyle modifications do not heal an ulcer, surgery is often necessary.

Most ulcers can be healed with medications. When an ulcer fails to heal or if complications of bleeding, perforation or obstruction develop, surgery is often necessary.



Colorectal Cancer

  • Men and women are equally affected by this cancer of the colon and rectum, two parts of the digestive system also known as the large intestine. All colon cancers arise from polyps, which are abnormal growths on the wall of the colon that may become cancerous over time. Polyps identified at very early stage can be removed before they become cancerous. The number one way to prevent or reduce the complications of colon cancer is screening.

Diagnosis & Treatment
Symptoms may include frequent gas pains, blood in or on the stool, diarrhea or constipation, and a feeling that the bowel has not emptied completely. To identify the cause of symptoms, a gastroenterologist will review your history, perform a physical exam, and may order one of the following diagnostic tests:

  • Sigmoidoscopy - allows the clinician to see inside the rectum and lower colon, and sample polyps or other abnormalities.
  • Colonoscopy - lets the doctor examine the entire colon and remove polyps or sample abnormal areas.
  • Polypectomy - the removal of a polyp during a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.
  • Biopsy - the removal of a tissue sample for examination under a microscope.
  • Barium enema - this cleaning of the colon is used to evaluate patients with lower intestinal symptoms. Abnormalities from a barium enema will result in a colonoscopy.
  • CT Scan - these X-rays of the abdomen and pelvis can reveal possible growths.

A gastroenterologist will perform the tests that can diagnose colorectal cancer and, should the cancer be detected, will work with a team of specialists including oncologists and surgeons to treat the cancer. Treatments may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of all three.




Date Updated: 06-JAN-2005



Akron General Medical Center • 1 Akron General Avenue (Formerly 400 Wabash Avenue) • Akron, OH 44307 • 330-344-6000 • 1-800-221-4601    © 2014 Akron General Health System
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