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Gastroenterology is the field of medicine focused on the normal function and diseases of the digestive system or the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts, liver, as well as colon and rectum. Doctors who specialize in gastroenterology are called gastroenterologists. They are trained to diagnose and treat conditions of the digestive system. Some of the conditions that these specialists can treat include:
While gastroenterologists can treat diseases of the digestive system, they do not perform surgery. If surgery is required they will work with or refer patients to a gastrointestinal surgeon. The following are a range of nonsurgical procedures that gastroenterologists perform:
The type of procedure that you undergo determines your length of stay in Costa Rica. Most procedures are performed on an outpatient basis, meaning you can leave the hospital or clinic on the same day. However, you generally need to stay in Costa Rica for around a week for follow up appointments and to let your body recover before you can travel. If you undergo a diagnostic procedure, your doctor will discuss the results and create a treatment plan during the follow-up appointment.
Recovery time for gastroenterology procedures range from a day to 2 weeks, or sometimes longer, depending on the type of procedure. During the recovery period, it is important to avoid any strenuous activities. Your gastroenterologist will let you know the specific time you can resume your normal activities, go back to work, and perform vigorous exercises.
It is crucial that you follow all of the instructions closely, to prevent the problem from getting worse or from reoccurring, you may need to make some dietary and lifestyle changes. You may also need to attend follow-up checkups to monitor your condition. You can have the checkups at home with your local doctor, or with your gastroenterologist in Costa Rica.
Advances in gastroenterology have increased the safety and success rate of treatments. The diagnostic procedures offer high accuracy in finding problems within the gastrointestinal tract, and the treatments are found to be highly successful to treat conditions in the digestive system. For example, a colonoscopy now has a 94% success rate in capturing all colorectal cancer. Still, there are some risks to the procedures that you will need to be aware of, such as a tear in the intestine’s lining, excessive bleeding, adverse reaction to the equipment or medication used during the procedure, organ perforation, infection, and incomplete removal (for removal of polyps).
In most cases, there is no alternative to seeing a gastroenterologist if you experience problems in your digestive system and it is found to be caused by something else that is outside the gastroenterologists’ scope of practice, they will refer you to the relevant specialist.