Treating the Digestive System

Gastroenterology at Summerlin Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada

Gastroenterology focuses on the causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the digestive system. The organs of the digestive system include the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder and bile ducts. Patients suffering with digestive system issues may experience may symptoms, including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Acid reflux or heartburn
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • Bloating or gas
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea and vomiting

At Summerlin Hospital Medical Center, a wide range of tests and procedures are available to help diagnose and treat digestive issues.


During a colonoscopy, the physician will look inside of the entire colon and rectum for polyps, small growths that over time can become cancer. A colonoscope — a thin, flexible, hollow, and lighted tube that has a tiny video camera — is gently eased into the colon by the physician and sends pictures to a TV screen.

Small amounts of air are puffed into the colon to keep it open and let the physician see clearly. The exam takes about 30 minutes. Patients are usually given medicine to help them relax and sleep while it is performed.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

During sigmoidoscopy, a physician closely looks at the lower part of the colon and the rectum for signs of cancer or polyps. Because the scope used is only about two feet long, the physician is able to see the entire rectum but less than half of the colon with this exam. The physician uses a thin (about the thickness of a finger), flexible, hollow, lighted tube that has a tiny video camera on the end called a sigmoidoscope. The sigmoidoscope is gently eased inside the colon and sends pictures to a TV screen. Small amounts of air are puffed into the colon to keep it open and let the physician see clearly.

Removing polyps can help prevent colorectal cancer from ever starting. Cancers found in an early stage, while they are small and before they have spread, are more easily treated. Nine out of 10 people whose colon cancer is discovered early will be alive five years later, according to The American Cancer Society. Many will live a normal life span.

Upper Endoscopy

Upper endoscopy lets your physician examine the lining of the upper gastrointestinal tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach and duodenum and helps to evaluate symptoms of upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or difficulty swallowing. It's the best test for finding the cause of bleeding from the upper GI tract. It's also more accurate than X-ray films for detecting inflammation, ulcers and tumors of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. The physician uses a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope, which has its own lens and light source, and views the images on a video monitor.

Your physician might use upper endoscopy to obtain a biopsy to distinguish between benign and malignant (cancerous) tissues. Biopsies are taken for many reasons, and your physician might order one even if he or she does not suspect cancer. For example, your physician might use a biopsy to test for Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium that causes ulcers.

Upper endoscopy is also used to treat conditions of the upper gastrointestinal tract. Your physician can pass instruments through the endoscope to directly treat many abnormalities — this will cause you little or no discomfort.

Endoscopic Ultrasonography

The combination of endoscopy and ultrasound, endoscopic ultrasonography, allows physicians to "microscopically" examine tissue within and surrounding the digestive tract. Like endoscopy, EUS uses a flexible tube called an endoscope, to photograph and videotape the internal organs. EUS is similar to a regular endoscopy, although it takes more time because it is more precise, and because there are more details for the physician to examine and interpret. The high frequency of EUS reveals the full extent of abnormalities not detectable by most other means, including information that is critical to accurate diagnosis and optimum care.

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a specialized technique used to study the bile ducts, pancreatic duct and gallbladder. Ducts are drainage routes; the drainage channels from the liver are called bile or biliary ducts. The pancreatic duct is the drainage channel from the pancreas.

During ERCP, your physician will pass an endoscope through your mouth, esophagus and stomach into the small intestine. After your physician sees the common opening to the ducts from the liver and pancreas, called the major duodenal papilla, your physician will pass a narrow plastic tube called a catheter through the endoscope and into the ducts. Your physician will inject a dye into the pancreatic or biliary ducts and will take X-rays.


A bronchoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure used to view a patient's airways, including the throat, larynx, trachea and lower airways. Bronchoscopy can also be used to help diagnose lung disease. In this procedure, a bronchoscope is passed through the mouth or nose through the trachea and into the lungs. The test can help detect infections, cancer and more.