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The Human Digestive System: Tests and Treatment Medical Terminolo

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Testing and Treatment of Digestive System Diseases

Knowledge and understanding of the medical terminology pertaining to the diagnosis and treatment of common diseases of the human digestive system is an important part of health literacy. It can improve your understanding of your health and the health care you receive.  Listed below are some of the more common terms and their meanings.

Medical Terminology


Abdominal ultrasound – It is a special type of x-ray of the abdomen in which sound waves are conducted through a probe.  As the sound waves bounce off of the gallbladder, pancreas, liver and other organs, images are produced.  Those images provide significant information regarding disease or abnormalities in those various organs.  
Anoscope – It is an instrument for examining the anus and lower rectum.  

Barium enema – Is a series of x-rays of the colon and rectum performed after barium has been injected into the rectum.  It allows the detection of various abnormalities of the colon and rectum.  They include cancer, diverticulosis, diverticulitis and polyps.  

Cholecystectomy – Surgical removal of the gallbladderLaparoscopic cholecystectomy is removal of the gallbladder through a laparoscope.  

Colonoscope – The instrument with which colonoscopy is performed.  the human digestive system

Colonoscopy Endoscopy with examination of the entire colon.  It is more accurate in detecting polyps, ulcers and tumors than a barium enema.  Polyps can be removed through the colonoscope during the procedure.  Tissue samples of polyps and larger tumor masses can also be obtained during the procedure to confirm a diagnosis.  

Diverticulum (pl. diverticula) – A saclike pouch in a tubular organ. It can occur naturally or form from a defect in the muscular wall of the structure.  Diverticula are most common in the colon. The term for multiple diverticula in the colon is diverticulosis.  

Endoscope – It is the instrument through which endoscopy or esophagogastroduodenoscopy is performed. 

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) – It is a special x-ray of the bile ducts performed through an endoscope.  The gastroenterologist who performs the procedure advances the endoscope to the hepatopancreatic ampulla then injects dye through the opening into the duodenum.  As the dye flows in a direction opposite the natural flow of bile into the pancreatic duct, common bile duct, common hepatic ducts and adjoining ducts sequential x-rays are taken.  The procedure can detect stones in the gallbladder, common bile duct or other ducts of the biliary tract.  If stones are detected they can oftentimes be removed through the endoscope at the time of their detection.  It can also be helpful in diagnosing other conditions including cancer of the pancreatic duct, cancer of the hepatopancreatic ampulla and cholangitis.  

Endoscopy – Examination of the inside of a portion of the digestive tractwith a flexible scope which has a light on the end and a camera attached.  Tissue samples can be taken through the scope. The term for the latter is endoscopic biopsy  

Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) – Endoscopy with examination of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum.  In addition to detecting structural abnormalities of the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum it can also detect esophageal varices.  

Gallstones – Solid particles that form in the gallbladder or elsewhere in the biliary tree.  Some are actually hard stones.  Others resemble gravel or powder.  They are chiefly composed of cholesterol.  But they also contain lesser and varying amounts of calcium and bilirubin depending on the individual.  Abdominal ultrasound can detect most gallstones.  Sometimes an alternate imaging study such as a CT scan is necessary to make the diagnosis.  

Gastroenterologist – Is a medical practitioner who specializes in diseases of the digestive system.

Gastroenterology – The medical specialty that deals with the evaluation and treatment of diseases of the digestive system.  It is a subspecialty of internal medicine.  

Laparotomy – Surgical incision into the abdomen, through which a surgeon can view the abdominal cavity and remove diseased tissue.  

Laparoscope – Is an instrument which is inserted through a belly button incision into the abdominal cavity for viewing and surgical removal of diseased tissue.  

Laparoscopy – The viewing of the abdominal cavity through a laparoscope.  

Paracentesis – The removal of fluid from the peritoneal space.  The procedure is performed for diagnostic or therapeutic reasons.  It consists of numbing an area of skin covering the abdomen with an anesthetic, then inserting a needle through the numb area.  The fluid removed is usually sent to a laboratory for tests.  

Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiopancreatography (PTC) – It is a procedure to detect blockage of bile flow within or outside of the liver.  It consists of injecting a special dye into the liver after entry through the skin. X-rays are then taken to follow the flow of the dye.  It is oftentimes helpful in diagnosing blockage of the bile ducts caused by gallstones or a tumor of the liver, bile ducts or pancreas. 

Polyp – It is a growth protruding from the lining into the tubular portion of the digestive tract.  Polyps can occur anywhere from the mouth down to the rectum. They are most common in the colon though. Many colon polyps are benign but they vary in their potential to become malignant. 

Sigmoidoscopy Endoscopy with examination of the lower third of the colon.  

Upper GI – Is an x-ray study of the upper digestive tract in which barium is swallowed.  X-rays are then taken of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum to check for abnormalities.  Abnormalities or conditions it can detect include esophagitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, polyps, ulcers and tumors.  

Upper GI and small bowel series – An x-ray of the upper digestive tract similar to an upper GI but with additional x-rays performed as barium travels into the remainder of the small intestine.  It can sometimes help diagnose Crohn’s disease.




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