Gastroenterology, sometimes called GI, focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the entire digestive system, which includes the esophagus, stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, colon and rectum. Your medical care team will depend upon your specific GI condition. Often this includes doctors with different medical specialties along with other health professionals who collaborate to give you the best care possible. At the University of Michigan, our goal is always to coordinate this multidisciplinary care in a way that is convenient and efficient for you. Here are some of the roles of the medical staff who may be involved in your care:
Physicians: University of Michigan physicians who treat patients with GI problems include doctors with specialties in internal medicine (dealing with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of adult diseases) and gastroenterology (dealing with disorder of the digestive system), and the sub-specialty of hepatology (gastroenterologists with special training in disorders of the liver, pancreas and biliary tree).
Gastrointestinal Radiologists: A radiologist is a physician who has specialized training in obtaining and interpreting medical images. To diagnose various digestive and liver conditions, gastrointestinal radiologists use multiple types of images, including fluoroscopy, X-rays, CT (computed tomography or CAT), ultrasound, MRI, and GI procedures such as biopsy, fluid and abscess drainage.
Surgeons: These physicians are board certified in surgery, often with special training in colon and rectal surgery, and provide care for patients where surgery is needed to treat a gastrointestinal disease.
Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners: Physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) are highly trained and skilled individuals who assist in the medical care of GI patients. They may perform the history and physical exam before treatment or surgery or assist in the evaluation process by reviewing test results and documentation. In addition, they provide continuity on the patient's case between medical specialty groups.
Behavioral Psychologist: Behavioral health services are provided by a clinical psychologist who has a unique understanding of the psychosocial issues specific to gastrointestinal disorders. They use the most up-to-date, scientifically based treatments to assist patients with managing their condition and improving their quality of life. They provide a safe, comfortable therapy environment where treatment is designed to help patients feel better both physically and emotionally. Treatments are designed for people who do not necessarily have a mental health problem, rather for people who want to better manage their physical condition.
A patient may be a good candidate for our services if they find that life stressors make symptoms worse, they are excessively worried about the impact of their symptoms, they have trouble understanding their condition or treatment plan, their medication is not working, they have trouble relaxing, they are experiencing anxiety or depression because of symptoms or they feel as though they do not have an adequate support system. Psychological interventions that address stress and, in some cases, intestinal symptoms directly, can be beneficial for gastrointestinal health and emotional well-being. We provide a variety of treatments including CBT, relaxation training, gut-directed hypnotherapy and stress-management training. Learn more about the Gi Behavioral Therapy Care Team.
Nurses: Nurses are invaluable in developing relationships with patients and providing very specialized care. They provide education on gastroenterological disease and assist other team members in monitoring test results, communicating with patients regarding medical conditions, explaining preparations for testing, and monitoring medication levels. Nurses are also involved in patient evaluation, medical management, and follow-up care.
Registered Dietitians: Your digestive or liver condition may require nutrition counseling. A Registered Dietitian (RD) is on staff and works directly with patients seen in our Digestive and Liver Health clinics. The Registered Dietitian is available to provide nutrition counseling tailored to a patient’s specific digestive or liver health needs and provides education and peace-of-mind for patients learning how to manage their medical conditions. In addition, our dietitian has clinical experience in teaching the low FODMAP diet to patients with IBD. A patient would see the RD for a variety of reasons. Some of the more common reasons include weight management, reducing functional GI symptoms, gastroparesis, celiac disease, cirrhosis, and enteral or parenteral nutrition management. Overall a Registered Dietitian will guide you to eat nutritious, tasty meals that suit your palate and agree with your gut.