Gastroenterology deals with digestive tract issues (abdomen, colon, liver, pancreas, etc.). Depending on the disease, gastroenterologists work together with other highly specialized doctors, for example, oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, and haematologists. Digestive system diseases are among the most common in the world, after cardiovascular and oncological issues. Therefore, visiting a doctor for GI tract issues can be essential. In addition, more and more patients prefer travelling abroad for gastroenterological treatment.
The digestive system supplies the body with vital substances (nutrients, water, electrolytes, vitamins). The gastrointestinal tract (GI tract or GIT) consists of several organs, each of which has specific functions. These include the oesophagus, liver, stomach, gallbladder, pancreas, small intestine, and rectum.
Statistically, men are more likely to suffer from GI diseases, which may be due to a later request for medical help. The number of digestion diseases is constantly growing. It is due to the peculiarities of life, namely constant stress, psycho-emotional overstrain, malnutrition, and environment.
Patients choose treatment of gastroenterological diseases abroad for the following reasons:
- Fast appointments and surgery planning (if required);
- High qualification and experience of doctors;
- A multidisciplinary approach to therapy;
- Advanced equipment and innovative medical approaches;
- Comprehensive modern diagnostics (advanced endoscopic methods);
- Developed rehabilitation and nutrition care system.
What are the signs of gastroenterological diseases?
The most common symptoms of GI disorders may be broad and not specific. Usually, it is related to an unbalanced diet, drinking alcohol, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and taking certain drugs.
- Abdominal pain is a relatively common symptom of diseases of the digestive system. The ache can be acute and have a different character (dull, stabbing, cutting, etc.). It may accompany other signs such as fever, nausea, or vomiting. The pain is often associated with food intake and occurs on an empty stomach, at night or sometimes after eating. Reasons are varied, from muscle spasms to the development of inflammation in the mucous membranes.
- Nausea and vomiting are unpleasant feelings of discomfort and are one of the most typical GI signs. Usually, nausea almost always precedes vomiting. The signs appear due to food poisoning or infection. Vomiting can relieve the condition, but this does not happen in some gastroenterological diseases.
- Dyspepsia is a broad term that includes bloating, heartburn, belching, bad breath, bitterness in the mouth, and loss of appetite. These manifestations occur due to increased acidity of the stomach. Often these symptoms arise when the contents of the stomach rush in the opposite direction.
- Diarrhoea is the frequent removal of loose stools. In many circumstances, diarrhoea is accompanied by abdominal pain, cramps, and weakness. Diarrhoea can be induced by many causes: poisoning, injections, intestinal diseases, lactose or gluten intolerance, and antibiotics. Of particular concern is bloody stools. It indicates bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Constipation is a strenuous bowel movement. This symptom can be compelled not only by diseases but also by malnutrition. If constipation continues for a long time, it causes intestinal obstruction, which needs immediate treatment.
Latest diagnostic options for GI diseases
Digestive disorders happen to everyone. However, they might be a reason for severe diseases and become chronic. Therefore, it is necessary to undergo a gastro check-up annually. It includes consultation with a gastroenterologist, laboratory tests, ultrasound of the abdominal organs and gastroscopy if necessary. In addition, if there is a family history of chronic or hereditary disorders of the GIT, patients are advised to undergo examination even more frequent.
Modern diagnostic methods used in gastroenterology are widely used in foreign clinics:
- Capsule endoscopy: a patient swallows a tiny video capsule that takes pictures of the organs moving through the bowels. As soon as the capsule passes through the body, the images are downloaded to a computer, and the doctor examines them.
- Endoscopic ultrasound: a gastroenterologist inserted a flexible tube into a patient's mouth under sedation. High-frequency sound waves provide detailed images of the organs and tissues of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD): a patient swallows an endoscope (thin tube) with a video camera to examine the upper GIT with a biopsy. Before the technique, the throat is sprayed with an anaesthetic.
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): a unique method for examining the gallbladder, pancreas and liver. The technique combines X-ray and endoscopy and is performed with contrast. Through a flexible tube with a camera (endoscope), the doctor moves from the stomach and duodenum to the bile ducts and pancreas. At this time, a doctor injects contrast and takes pictures of the biliary system.
- Colonoscopy: a procedure for examining the lining of the colon. It diagnoses damages and a biopsy (taking a tissue sample for examination under a microscope).
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy: is an imaging of the rectum and lower colon. In this case, a flexible tube is inserted into the anus and moves up. During the procedure, the doctor may perform a biopsy.
What treatment can gastroenterology abroad offer?
Therapy options for digestive disorders vary widely, depending on the disease's cause, type, and severity. A physician prescribes treatment only after making the correct diagnosis. Sometimes, lifestyle changes and eating habits are enough to eliminate the symptoms. If the condition is more severe and such methods do not help, doctors recommend drug treatment, which involves:
- Antibiotics for diseases caused by bacteria;
- Antidiarrheal or laxative drugs;
- Antispasmodics medicines;
- Antacids are drugs that reduce the acidity of the stomach;
- Enterosorbents for the removal of toxic substances;
- Probiotics for the treatment of diarrhoea.
Other treatments include surgery (planned or emergency). In leading gastroenterological hospitals abroad, doctors mainly use laparoscopy. It is a less traumatic operation with several small incisions and the use of a camera. This method has many advantages over open surgery. In addition, surgeons use laparoscopy for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. So, during the procedure, a surgeon can take a biopsy or remove tumours, polyps, gallbladder stones and even an organ (stomach, duodenum, gallbladder, appendix).
Abdominal surgeons operate on such diseases as cancerous conditions, Crohn's disease, haemorrhoids, intestinal obstruction, gastrointestinal bleeding, colon polyps and others.
In addition to traditional medications, modern GI centres abroad widely use immune drugs to stop the progression of chronic conditions e.g. Crohns disease. At the same time, clinics report about advanced endoscopic injections inside the intestine.
What are the advantages of gastroenterology abroad?
Today, patients are given a choice of the best countries and clinics for treating gastrointestinal diseases. Every year, thousands of patients travel abroad in search of effective therapy. Medicine in foreign hospitals has many advantages:
- Quality patient care: during the entire stay in the hospital, patients are monitored by doctors and nurses. In addition, many centres have rehabilitation and nutrition departments, which helps to return to daily life faster.
- Latest endoscopy technologies: clinics purchase medical devices from well-known manufacturers. The excellent quality of technology and computerized programs improve the diagnosis of abdominal diseases.
- High qualification of doctors: physicians have many years of experience in gastroenterology and apply a multidisciplinary approach to each patient. It guarantees the best medical care and high efficiency.
- Minimally invasive procedures: after such manipulations, the recovery period is much faster, and the possibility of complications is minimized.
- Robotic technology: specialists frequently perform operations with the DaVinci automated system. It gives maximum precision during operations and does not allow inaccurate or abrupt movements of the surgeon.
Why is gastroenterology service abroad better?
Gastroenterology service abroad is better for various reasons - comprehensive medical care with the latest technology and research programs. Also, gastroenterologists regularly undergo quality control and training. Finally, almost all hospitals abroad are located in colourful areas, allowing patients to go through treatment and recovery in a calm and resort environment.
What is modern gastroenterology treatment available?
Today, foreign clinics use modern endoscopic surgery for gastrointestinal diseases. Doctors endoscopically treat gastroesophageal reflux disease, GI tract tumours, and gallbladder stones. In addition, physicians can use quality medications as well as immune drugs to help with chronic conditions.
Why do patients travel abroad for digestive tract issues?
Patients travel abroad searching for solutions to gastrointestinal problems since some modern medical services are unavailable in their countries; for others, it's because of affordability. Foreign clinics are well known for their high-quality healthcare systems and quick service access.
Is it expensive to visit a gastroenterologist in other countries?
Medical costs vary significantly by country and clinic. Even the qualifications of the doctor affect the prices. However, the pricing policy of European countries is an order of magnitude lower than in the United States. At the same time, the quality of services remains at the same high level.
Why might gastroenterological diagnosis be more accurate abroad?
Many foreign hospitals cooperate with university clinics. Combining the achievements of modern medicine with the development of medical equipment puts the diagnosis of gastrointestinal diseases to a new level. The devices are produced by well-known companies in Japan, France, and Turkey. Such diagnostics reveal foci less than 1 centimetre in size. The use of visualization and 3D methods shows all the structures of the body as clearly as possible.
What are the best clinics for Gastroenterology?
Who are the best doctors for Gastroenterology?
Prof. Dr. med. Roland M. Schmid from University Hospital rechts der Isar Munich
Prof. Dr. med. Julia Mayerle from University Hospital Ludwig-Maximilians Munich
Dr. med. Ulrich Baumgarten from Academic Hospital Bundeswehr Berlin
Prof. Dr. med. Mathias Z. Strowski, FEBGH from Park Clinic Weissensee Berlin