The digestive system is an intricate system that can be disrupted by disease, diet and emotional stress. While some digestive problems can be remedied with medicine and lifestyle changes, others require surgery. AnMed Health physicians use cutting edge technology, such as gastrointestinal ultrasound, to diagnose and treat digestive conditions. Gastrointestinal ultrasound provides more detailed images of the digestive system than other imaging studies. It allows physicians to examine your esophageal and stomach linings, as well as your upper and lower digestive tract.
The primary role of the digestive system is to help the body break down and absorb food. Also known as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, it includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine — also called the colon — rectum, and anus. Tiny glands in the mouth, stomach, and small intestine produce juices to help digest food. The digestive system also contains a layer of smooth muscle that moves food along the tract.
Using minimally invasive techniques, AnMed Health surgeons are experts in treating a variety of GI problems including:
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Sometimes called acid reflux or heartburn, GERD is a condition where stomach acids reflux or "back up" from the stomach into the esophagus. People often describe heartburn as a harsh, burning sensation. Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF) is an incision-less procedure for treating people with acid reflux disease. Using a special device, the surgeon reconstructs the anti-reflux valve at the entrance of the esophagus into the stomach to prevent reflux. TIF represents the latest step in the treatment of acid reflux disease.
If left untreated, GERD can lead to Barrett's esophagus, a condition that can eventually turn into cancer. Ablation is a treatment where tissue is heated until it is no longer viable or alive. Physicians have used various forms of ablation for nearly a century to treat a number of conditions. AnMed Health surgeons use a special technique called HALO ablation to completely remove the affected tissue, while minimizing injury to healthy esophagus tissue. Clinical studies have demonstrated that the Barrett's tissue can be completely eliminated with the HALO ablation technology in 98.4 percent of patients.
People needing their gallbladder removed due to gallstones, pain or inflammation can benefit from da Vinci robotic technology. AnMed Health surgeons use a single small incision — rather than four as required with traditional laparoscopy — through the belly button to remove the gallbladder, resulting in a faster recovery and little to no scarring.
A hernia occurs when a small sac containing tissue pushes through the muscles of the abdominal wall. Hernias can be uncomfortable and usually require repair to prevent them from getting larger. AnMed Health surgeons use the latest minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques which offer less pain and a quicker recovery.
Many conditions can affect the colon, causing bleeding, inflammation and bowel control problems. Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in the country. AnMed Health surgeons perform minimally invasive laparoscopic colon surgery, allowing surgeons to treat many common colon conditions through small incisions. Depending on the type of procedure, patients may leave the hospital in a few days and return to normal activities more quickly than patients recovering from open surgery.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
IBD is a broad term referring to any condition causing ongoing inflammation in the digestive tract. This can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue and bleeding from the rectum.
Diverticulitis and diverticular disease
Diverticulitis is inflammation and infection in one or more diverticula, which are tiny bulges or pockets found in the colon that can develop when there's too much pressure inside the colon.
The appendix is a small narrow pouch attached to the colon, found in the lower right side of your abdomen. Appendicitis happens when this pouch becomes inflamed and irritated. Pain due to appendicitis can be severe, and the standard treatment is to have the appendix surgically removed.
Bleeding in your gastrointestinal tract is often due to colorectal conditions like polyps and IBD. Symptoms vary depending on where in your digestive tract the bleed is occurring but can include black or tarry stool, bright red blood in the stool or on toilet paper and vomiting blood. Gastrointestinal bleeding can lead to a life-threatening condition known as shock if it becomes severe.
Anal fistula, anal fissure and hemorrhoids
A variety of conditions can affect the anus, which is the opening of the lower end of your rectum through which stool (feces) passes. Common conditions treated by our AnMed Health Anderson colorectal oncology team include:
- Anal fistula — a fistula is any abnormal tunnel-like structure that develops in a tissue; these often develop in and around the anus after an anal abscess (swollen and often painful pocket of pus) is drained
- Anal fissure — a split or tear in the lining of the anus; these usually develop when large hard stools stretch the anal opening
- Hemorrhoids — these are swollen veins inside and outside of your rectum that can lead to swelling, itching, pain and bleeding
Bowel obstruction and severe constipation
A bowel obstruction in the large intestine prohibits stool from passing, which can be life-threatening in some cases. This is often due to colorectal cancer or diverticular disease.
Fecal incontinence and pelvic floor dysfunction
Your pelvic floor is formed of a "sling" of muscles that help hold your abdominal contents (including your intestines) in place. If something disrupts the way these muscles contract and relax, then a variety of symptoms can develop, including the inability to control your stool.
Rectal prolapse happens when the rectum (very lower end of the large intestine) begins to stick or bulge out of the anus. A variety of issues can increase the risk of rectal prolapse, including chronic constipation or diarrhea, advancing age and injuries to the anus or pelvis.
Injury to the anus
Any injury to the anus can lead to pain, difficulty passing stool, infection, rectal prolapse and other concerns.