Gastroenterologists are doctors that specialize in the care and treatment of the digestive tract, from the mouth and esophagus, to the small and large intestine and rectum.
The physicians practicing at Gastroenterology Associates in Baton Rouge, LA are all board certified gastroenterologists, with many of them holding extensive additional credentials and specializations.
Specialized Care is More Effective Care
The evidence is clear: seeing a gastroenterology specialist is associated with better care outcomes. Although many internal medicine and primary care physicians offer basic gastroenterology services such as colonoscopy, numerous studies show that experienced, board-certified gastroenterologists are able to provide higher quality care that can be life-saving.
What's the difference? Internists are doctors who specialize in the care of the human body. They act as generalists, providing primary care and identifying problems that require diagnosis or treatment from a specialist. Internists have gone through medical school as well as residency. When common digestive problems are encountered, if you do not improve with basic treatment or if you need a procedure such as an EGD/ upper endoscopy or a colonoscopy, your internist or family physician will refer you to a gastroenterologist.
Gastroenterologists have gone through all of the same training as internists, but received further training to become board-certified in the treatment of conditions affecting the gastrointestinal system, which includes the colon, bowel, stomach, and liver. Gastroenterologists typically complete hundreds of colonoscopies during their training, and continue to perform hundreds each year in their practice.
A recent study by Dr. Nancy Baxter from St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto examined Medicare billing records from over 9,000 people who were diagnosed with colon cancer and ultimately died from the disease in their 70s and 80s, along with 27,000 records from individuals who did not have colon cancer.
The researchers found that people who did not have a colonoscopy in recent years were most likely to die from colon cancer, confirming what has long been found in colon cancer research. However, patients who received their colonoscopy from a board-certified gastroenterologist rather than an internist or a surgeon were most likely to have precancerous polyps found and removed early, resulting in lower mortality rates.
Other studies have confirmed these findings, and also found that surgeons come in second place when it comes to finding the highest number of polyps, behind gastroenterologists but ahead of primary care physicians who do colonoscopy.
Although gastroenterologists provide the best colonoscopy, it is of course better to get a colonoscopy from a general pracitioner or primary care pysician than to not get a colonoscopy at all if a gastroenterologist is not available. Gastroenterology Associates are able to provide access to gastroenterology care at one of our three locations in Baton Rouge, Zachary and Livingston.
Why Higher Volume = Better Results
Volume outcomes data suggests that the higher volume of procedures of a physician or clinic the better the outcomes. Even for conditions like pancreatitis, which is routinely treated with fluids and medications, the outcomes under treatment of a gastroenterologist still exceed those of a general practitioner. When done at a high volume center, patients did better than low volume centers.
Similarly, a recent study in the Journal of Surgical Oncology revealed that low volume centers (or those with less procedures done by a practitioner) were associated with increased odds of having adverse outcome. For complex colonoscopy, choosing a primary care specialtist as opposed to gastroenterologists, added to the odds of adverse events. All the physicians at Gastroenterology Associates are proficient in routine and specialized procedures and are dedicated to your safety and comfort during the procedures.
Colonoscopy and What Comes After
Another advantage of visiting the Gastroenterology Associates is that we are able to provide care for whatever issues are revealed during the colonoscopy. When you go to a primary care physician or surgeon, they may be able to detect abnormalities, but they will have to pass off the diagnosis or treatment of the problem to a gastroenterologist.
For patients with issues such as gastric reflux, anemia, difficulty swallowing, and abdominal pain, most primary care physicians will not be able to certainly diagnose without an upper endoscopy which may be used to detect stomach ulcers and esophageal cancer in patients with these conditions and symptoms. In addition, only gastroenterologists can perform ERCPs to examine the bile ducts.
If a patient has anemia or blood in the stool, an upper endoscopy may still be needed and is performed by a gastroenterologist. It is best to have all treatments and care under the supervision of one physician and in one place. A capsule endoscopy may also be ordered if the cause of anemia is not found during colonoscopy or endoscopy. Gastroenterology Associates is the only group in Baton Rouge that can provide all these services in one place, including EUS (endoscopic ultrasound).
Gastroenterologists have the expertise to treat a wide range of gastrointestinal problems, including but not limited to:
• Pancreatic conditions
• Bowel obstruction
Therefore, seeing a gastroenterologist for your colonoscopy allows you to do "one stop shopping." This is not just convenient, but it allows for an important continuity of care that can improve outcomes. For example, when the gastroenterologist is the same doctor who performed the colonoscopy, he has seen for himself what the colon looks like, and has more detail on the matter than is available in a report.
Getting a colonoscopy is an important health screening procedure for people over the age of 50 or earlier if you are African American or have a personal/family history. The procedure can detect growths that can lead to cancer, as well as other abnormalities. Although some primary care physicians offer colonoscopy, it is best to be screened at Gastroenterology Associates, which is run entirely by board-certified gastroenterologists.
If you are ready to schedule your appointment, the Gastroenterology Associates would be happy to hear from you. To schedule your consultation today, please click below and enter your information or give us a call at (225) 927-1190.
Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician. Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.