A wide range of tests are available to confirm a specific diagnosis. We simply highlight below some key gastroentorology procedures, which allow gastroenterologists to see what is happening inside your body.
Endoscopy and Colonoscopy
An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube, with a light and camera at one end. Where this is introduced through your mouth, the procedure is called gastroscopy, if through your bottom, this is known as colonoscopy.
Images of the inside of your body can be relayed to a screen, examined and recorded. Minor surgical work, such as sample taking (biopsies) or polyp removal can be carried out at the same time.
The middle part of the gastrointestinal tract, which is beyond reach of the gastroscope but above the reach of a colonoscope, can now be examined by a camera in pill – also known as wireless capsule endoscopy. For details of each approach and the preparation involved, please see:
Endoscopy & Colonoscopy ➤
Imaging The Digestive Tract
Internal imaging is an area where progress is constantly being made, long established techniques enhanced. There are three core approaches.
Ultrasound has many medical uses, images of unborn babies perhaps the best known. The approach is equally useful to differentiate gas from liquid in the gastrointestinal tract, or trace inflammation in areas such as the appendix, or colon.
A computed tomography (CT) scanner is a sophisticated x-ray machine, where computer processing combines images taken from different angles, to create sectional views of your body. Helpful for detecting inflammation, or perforation and therefore often used in emergency or acute situations, its use is often rather restricted in younger patients, because of the radiation involved.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) avoids the need for x-rays, using radio frequency energy, within an external magnetic field. See more on how MRI and the other imaging processes create a valuable, internal picture:
Digestive Tract Imaging ➤
Exhaled Breath Analysis
Breath testing normally takes place after a test substance has been given by mouth and can be used to diagnose a number of gastrointestinal conditions.
Detecting the presence of a bacteria known as Helicobacter Pylori, a cause of ulcers and to a degree stomach cancer is an established test. The same would apply to tracing lactose, or fructose intolerance.
Further breath tests and analysing equipment are being developed, to take forward a quick and non invasive way to assess causes of sometimes quite serious conditions. See more information on:
Exhaled Breath Testing ➤
What comes out of our body is a reflection of processes taking place inside. Tests carried out on stool samples are again non invasive and can reveal a great deal.
An established test is the measurement of faecal calprotectin, a substance which increases in your intestines when they are inflamed. Positive tests can indicate an inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis.
Faecal elastase is another helpful test, to measure digestive enzymes and assess pancreatic function. Additional value can be found in further testing of a by product we all produce. See more on:
Faecal Testing ➤
Although physical examination can be a valuable part of a gastroenterologist’s diagnosis, physiological examination generally refers to quite specific testing on the function of key areas.
Oesophageal physiology not surprisingly investigates issues within the gullet. A procedure called oesophageal manometry can measure muscle function, the ability to swallow, others can assess acid reflux levels.
Anorectal physiology looks at muscle strength, sensation and the general function of the sphincter. Amongst other issues, helping to deal with the surprisingly common issue of incontinence. For more information on this and other procedures, see:
Physiological Examinations ➤