What to Expect on the Initial Visit
Gastroenterologists are board certified, highly trained specialists that are expected to complete four years of training at medical school, three years in a residency, and then a fellowship that can last between two and four years. There are general gastroenterologists, and then there are others that specialize in a particular part of the digestive system such as the esophagus or the liver.
A gastroenterologist can diagnose and examine, but they do not perform surgery, there are other specialists for that. Usually, you will be referred to a gastroenterologist by your GP. They will send you there if you have GI symptoms that have lasted for a long time and that have not responded to diet changes or to basic treatments.
Your first visit will likely involve being asked a lot of questions about your medical history. You may have been given a questionnaire to fill out. This is to establish a medical history of you and your family, so that they can get an idea of any health issues that you may be more likely to suffer from or that are known to run in the family.
You may see a nurse before the specialist. They will do a basic exam, checking things like your heart rate and blood pressure. After that, the gastroenterologist will then double check the details in your medical history and ask any appropriate questions about medication, allergies or symptoms. Before you are given a full test you will be examined. You may need a motility test, an x-ray, or a GI procedure. In some cases, endoscopies or other procedures may be performed.
The first visit could take up to one hour, depending on the kind of tests that are carried out. It is important that the specialist can get a full profile of you so that they know what treatments to suggest for the future. You may need medication, or extra care. If you need a full GI endoscopic procedure and the specialist at the facility cannot do it, they will book one at a different clinic for you. Often, these can be scheduled for the same day and transport can be arranged for you.
A single visit will not resolve the issue; you will need to book another appointment, or more than one, as a follow-up. The follow-up appointments are typically much shorter than the initial one as there are fewer details needed.
You will be advised if you are going to need detailed exams or procedures. You will be told if you need to limit your food intake or not drink anything, or avoid taking certain medication before you come to the clinic. Be sure to follow these instructions, because you will find that if you do not follow them, the results of the tests could be invalid and in some cases you could be putting your health in danger. There are good reasons for the instructions regarding food intake, as frustrating as they can be.