Gastroenterologist Vs. Colorectal Surgeon: What Is the Difference?

Medical terms can be a lot to digest, but one thing a patient should never be confused about is which type of doctor they should see. This happens all the time with gastroenterologists and colorectal surgeons, and many people feel like they need a medical degree to even figure out which doctor they need to go see.

Over the years, a good number of patients do not know which doctor they should see for problems in the digestive tract. Some patients don’t even realize there’s a difference at all. There is, indeed, a significant difference.

What is a Gastroenterologist?

The field of medicine known as gastroenterology exists to diagnose and treat conditions of the digestive tract affecting the stomach, gallbladder, pancreas, liver, small intestines, colon (large intestines), rectum, and the ducts between all these organs. Gastroenterologists, or GI doctors, are trained in general internal medicine with further training in gastroenterology or disorders of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including endoscopic techniques (EGD, colonoscopy, and capsule endoscopy).

Dr. Nowain is an experienced Los Angeles gastroenterologist. It is recommended that you see a gastroenterologist like him for the following gastrointestinal (GI) conditions or symptoms:

Dr. Nowain also treat the following GI problems or diseases:

  • Acid reflux/Heartburn (GERD; Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
  • Celiac Disease
  • Colon cancer prevention and screening
  • Colon polyps
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Infections of the intestinal tract
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreas disease
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Ulcers of the intestinal tract
  • Viral hepatitis

It is a common misconception that gastroenterologists only diagnose GI problems. We diagnose and treat GI  problems NON-SURGICALLY, and should surgery become necessary to solve the medical problem, then we refer to a surgeon. Gastroenterologists employ cutting-edge diagnostic procedures, but we also provide minimally invasive procedures for our patients with hemorrhoids. We offer the following diagnostic GI procedures:

Colorectal Surgeons

A Colon and Rectal Surgeon (also known as a Proctologist) is a surgeon with training in the surgical treatment of diseases of the colon, rectum and anus. The main difference between a colorectal surgeon and a gastroenterologist is that colorectal surgeons typically provide the following surgical treatments:

  • Anal warts
  • Anal fistulas
  • Appendicitis
  • Colectomy
  • Colon cancer resection
  • Crohn’s disease surgery
  • Diverticulitis surgery
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Gallstone surgery
  • Hernia surgery
  • Laparascopic surgery
  • Small bowel resections

Which Doctor Should You Choose?

If you are in need of a colonoscopy, a gastroenterologist is the preferred specialty as they have years of additional training in scoping procedures. Studies have shown that gastroenterologists have a higher rate of colon polyp detection (lower risk of missed polyps during a colonoscopy). If a gastroenterologist finds a polyp during a routine colonoscopy, he or she will remove it and take a biopsy. If the biopsy comes back positive for cancer, then the patient will be referred to the colorectal surgeon to do the actual surgical removal of that portion of the colon.

Always remember that each type of doctor is highly specialized and fulfills a specific need in the medical community. Gastroenterologists and colorectal surgeons often need to work closely together in certain medical conditions to achieve optimal outcomes for their patients.

If you experience any of the above GI problems, contact Dr. Nowain, a Beverly Hills gastroenterologist at (310) 657-4444 today to schedule a consultation.