If you're experiencing problems with your digestive system, you may need to attend a gastroenterology clinic. At your first appointment, your gastroenterologist will perform tests and assessments that determine how to treat your condition.
An assessment of your symptoms
When your primary care practitioner refers you to a gastroenterology clinic, it's because you are presenting with worrying symptoms. This referral will contain some basic details, but you'll still need to discuss your symptoms with your doctor so they can decide what to do next. They may want to know about:
- Worrying symptoms, such as coughing up blood or passing blood in your stools
- Whether you're experiencing weight loss
- The nature of your stools, such as how often you go, what they look like, and how they smell
- What your diet is like
- Any pains or uncomfortable sensations you experience, such as bloating
To make the process easier, you may want to create a list of the symptoms you experience before attending your appointment.
Being assessed for an investigation
Unless your primary care doctor has agreed on an investigation already, your gastroenterologist will want to assess you for the most appropriate one. In some cases, the symptoms you experience, your bowel movements, and your medications may mean performing a pre-investigation assessment. For example, many gastroenterologists like to stop warfarin treatments before engaging in endoscopies, and if you're particularly constipated you may need to engage in bowel preparation in the form of strong laxatives before your colonoscopy.
Undergoing an investigation
Depending on why your doctor refers you, you may undergo one of the following investigations:
- An abdominal examination, which involves feeling and listening to your stomach and bowels, as well as the surrounding organs.
- Blood tests, such as those that assess whether you're anaemic or whether there's any inflammation present
- An ultrasound, which looks at your abdomen and the size of your liver and spleen
- An abdominal xray, which can detect blockages, dilated colons, and large amounts of gas
- A fibroscan, which assesses fibrosis on your liver
- An endoscopy, which involves placing a camera into the upper portion of your food tract
- A colonoscopy, which involves placing a camera into the lower portion of your food tract
The type of investigation you undergo will depend on your symptoms.
Before your appointment, consider writing a list of questions so your gastroenterologist can answer them. After your investigations, you may need to attend further clinics to optimise your treatment.