What is Gastroenterology?
A gastroenterologist is a doctor that specializes in the normal function and diseases of the digestive tract, which includes the stomach, intestines, spleen, pancreas, and liver. As a specialty, gastroenterology is the study of how food moves through the body, how nutrients are absorbed by the body, and how waste is removed by the body. A few of the conditions that a gastroenterologist might treat are:
ulcerative colitis (a condition where inflammation and sores affect the lower intestine)
gallbladder disease (where bile stored in the gallbladder thickens and causes inflammation or gallstones)
gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD (stomach acid flows back into the throat and causes a burning sensation and tissue damage)
One unique trait that really sets gastroenterologists apart is their training and skill with endoscopy, a procedure where tiny flexible tubes are inserted into the body. These tubes are equipped with lights and cameras to provide the practitioner with a close, inside look at what is going on inside the patient’s body. Tools can even be inserted through the tubes to perform certain procedures, such as removing polyps or cancers, stretching open passageways that have narrowed, or applying lasers to stop bleeding.
Gastroenterologists do not perform surgery, but they do perform endoscopic procedures, as well as biopsies to determine if cancer is affecting the digestive tract. Although other physicians can use endoscopes, gastroenterologists devote a significant portion of their medical training and practice to endoscopy. They learn how and when to use endoscopy, the safest and most efficient methods to use, and how to interpret what they see through the endoscope.
What is General Surgery?
A general surgeon is a specialist who performs many different kinds of operations, with a focus on those located in the chest and abdomen. General surgeons have specific knowledge about anatomy, surgical techniques, and wound care that allows them to excel at a wide variety of procedures.
While a general surgeon can perform many different kinds of operations, there are a few types that are most common in general surgery. They include:
Mastectomies and breast cancer removal
Laparoscopic abdominal surgery, including hernia repairs and weight loss surgery
Colorectal surgery to treat conditions such as intestinal polyps or Crohn’s disease
Abdominal transplants, such as kidney transplants or liver transplants
Emergency surgery, performing all different kinds of needed surgery in an emergency department
A general surgery residency requires the doctor to have direct experience in ten widely different areas, including abdominal procedures, pediatric surgery, removing cancer, and repairing trauma. General surgeons have the ability to examine patients, perform biopsies, and plan care. They can prescribe antibiotics and pain medication and manage complications. They are operation experts, from diagnosis through recovery.
What is Critical Care?
Critical care, or intensive care medicine, is the delivery of medical care to patients whose illness or injury is so seriously life threatening that they would likely die without intervention. It usually takes place in ICUs or trauma centers. It is referred to as critical care in North America, while it is called intensive care or intensive therapy in the rest of the world. Specialists in this field are sometimes referred to as intensivists.
Critical care may encompass a broad variety of medical specialties in the efforts to save a patient’s life. Critical care specialists must have a good knowledge of anesthesiology, surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, and other specialties. Besides their medical knowledge, intensivists must know a great deal about end-of-life issues, including ethics, advanced directives, and family counseling and bereavement.
Critical care is a relatively modern specialty, which developed along with ICUs beginning in the 1950’s. It looks different from regular medicine, and it can be recognized by the presence of more nurses, more monitoring, more invasive monitors and procedures, and the presence of life-sustaining therapies such as mechanical ventilators and vasopressors.
Specialists in critical care frequently have to make urgent and complex decisions. They use their knowledge and skill to provide intensive care to the most fragile patients and do their best to save lives.
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