Digestive (gastrointestinal) problems involve a number of disorders which typically originate from the stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder or pancreas, including:
Most of us experience gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea or constipation. These common symptoms often occur without any underlying disease, and can be typically attributed to stress, inadequate exercise, routine changes, dietary changes or food allergies.
However, gastrointestinal problems can cause a variety of other symptoms, including:
- Indigestion or heartburn
- Fecal incontinence
- Abdominal pain, bloating or swelling
- Jaundiced, itchy skin
- Loss of appetite
- Unplanned weight loss
Since digestive symptoms can vary in severity and frequency, it’s important to have your physician or specialist (such as a gastroenterologist) perform an evaluation when you are experiencing any frequent or recurring symptoms such as dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, bloody stool, or major rectal bleeding. These symptoms can indicate a serious, potentially life-threatening condition.
Your doctor will first conduct a complete medical history and physical examination, and may use diagnostic tests to assist in developing a treatment plan for your condition. These tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Imaging tests. X-rays, CT scans, MRI, PET scans
- Endoscopy. A lighted instrument used to view the stomach or intestines; a biopsy may be taken for further testing.
- Enteroclysis. A thin tube is passed through the mouth or nose, down the esophagus, and through the stomach to the small intestine. Barium is sent through the tube and x-rays are taken of the intestines.
- Barium enema. Also known as a lower GI series; a barium solution is placed into the colon, and x-rays are taken.
- Barium swallow. Also known as an upper GI series; the barium solution is used to coat the inner lining of the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine, and x-rays are taken.
- Small bowel follow-through. Used to check the small intestine; x-rays are taken at regular intervals during a barium swallow test as the solution passes through the intestines.
In some cases, your physician may suggest a few simple measures to determine if your symptoms will subside, such as:
Your doctor may recommend surgery as a more advanced treatment measure.
- Increase dietary fiber
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid smoking
- Avoid foods that trigger the symptoms
- Medications (i.e., over-the-counter or prescription medications for acid reflux).
Summa surgeons perform many gastrointestinal procedures including:
- Bowel surgery
- Colon surgery
- Gallbladder surgery
- Intestinal surgery
- Liver surgery
- Polyp removal
- Rectal prolapse
Minimally-invasive surgery options. At Summa, we take a comprehensive approach to surgical treatment, from open procedures to the latest minimally invasive, robotic-assisted surgery techniques. Use of minimally-invasive, robotic-assisted techniques allows delicate and complex procedures such as pancreatic and gall bladder surgeries to be safely performed while providing patients such benefits as less post-operative pain, faster recovery times, less bleeding and less scarring.
Minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery may not be the best option for everyone. Your physician can explain all of the options available to treat your condition, including whether you’re a good candidate for minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery.
Read more about Summa’s use of the daVinci robotic-assisted system for minimally invasive surgery.
To schedule an appointment with a Summa physician to discuss your gastrointestinal condition, click or call (800) 237-8662.