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Digestive Diseases & Gastrointestinal Disorders

Digestive Diseases & Gastrointestinal Disorders

Digestive diseases, or gastrointestinal disorders, are conditions of the digestive tract. They can affect how our body processes food and other nutrients. If you have symptoms of heartburn, nausea, bowel pain or weight loss, turn to Atlantic Health System’s Centers for Digestive Health.  You will receive extraordinary care. In fact, U.S. News & World Report recently rated Morristown Medical Center a high performing hospital in gastroenterology and GI surgery.

We specialize in personalized treatment and prevention of a variety of gastrointestinal and esophageal disorders, including:

Achalasia

Diagnosis of achalasia involves endoscopic assessment, motility studies and imaging with contrast esophagram and/or CT scans.

Treatment options for this swallowing disorder are:

  • Endoscopically with Botox, dilation, POEM procedure
  • Minimally-invasive surgery, called Heller myotomy, which cuts the tight muscle band. This can be approached laparoscopically or thoracoscopically and patients are often discharged from the hospital after a short one to two-day stay.

Adhesive Bowel Obstructions

Bowel obstructions can be localized by imaging (MRI and CT scan).  They can also be assessed from the inside by capsule video endoscopy. Even in patients who have had previous surgeries, we can free up the bowel  laparoscopically. We leave IV fluid in the abdomen to prevent adhesion formation. A small bowel obstruction, which is a blockage in the small intestine, is usually caused by scar tissue (adhesions), a hernia, or a mass. 

Biliary Disease

Gallbladder medical issues are diagnosed through various tests. We use:

  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound
  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • HIDA scan (cholescintigraphy)
  • Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

Treatment can involve medications or antibiotics, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP); or a cholecystectomy.

Celiac Sprue

Celiac sprue is diagnosed in two ways.  We test for the presence of antibodies in blood and by endoscopic biopsies of the intestine. Although there is presently no cure for celiac disease, avoiding gluten in one’s diet ultimately repairs the intestinal lining in a majority of patients.

Chronic Constipation

The cause of chronic constipation can often be differentiated by performing a series of tests. Initial treatments for constipation include:

  • Behavioral modification
  • Dietary and medication changes
  • Laxatives

Other treatments include pelvic floor physical therapy and prescription medications.

Surgery is generally reserved for when poor colon motility has been proven and all nonsurgical options have failed. Minimal invasive surgery for constipation is done laparoscopically and involves removal of some or all of the colon, depending on the degree of dysfunction.

Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis can be diagnosed with:

  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Ultrasound
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Needle biopsy of the liver

A new imaging technique called elastography, which can be performed with ultrasound or MRI, can also diagnosis cirrhosis.

Treatments focus on the underlying cause. Options include:

In advanced cases, surgery or a liver transplant may be needed. 

Colon Cancer

A colonoscopy is recommended to identify colon cancer. If colon cancer is present, a workup determines what stage the cancer is in. The treatment for colon cancer depends on the stage. Surgery for colon cancer is appropriate in stage I, II and III and involves removing the section of colon containing the cancer and its associated lymph nodesChemotherapy for colon cancer is necessary in stage IV cancer and if there is spread of cancer cells into the lymph nodes or beyond. Each colon cancer is unique, and treatment requires an individualized approach determined by the surgeon and an oncology specialist. Learn more about cancer care at Atlantic Health System >

Diverticulitis

We intervene in patients who have recurrent episodes of diverticulitis. We also intervene when patients develop complications, such as perforations. The operations we offer for diverticulitis are done laparoscopically.

Esophageal Cancer

Accurate diagnosis for esophageal cancer is performed in three ways:

These diagnostics are used to determine the extent of the disease. They are critical to determine the best treatment strategy.

Advances in surgical techniques allow for individualized treatment strategies. We use minimally invasive thoracoscopic (VATS) and laparoscopic approaches where appropriate. 

Gallstones

Gallstones are typically detected by ultrasounds. Sometimes they are also noted in CT scans and MRI.  Once the gallbladder has formed stones, it will continue to form stones, even if stones are removed. Therefore the treatment is to remove the gallbladder. The laparoscopic approach has made cholecystectomy much safer and easier for recovery. Most patients go home right after the operation and are back to regular activities in less than a week.

Gastric Cancer

Your doctor can look for signs of cancer through an endoscopy. If any suspicious areas are found, a piece of tissue can be collected for analysis (biopsy). Imaging tests are used to look for stomach cancer

The main treatment for this stage of stomach cancer is surgery. Chemotherapy or chemoradiation (chemo plus radiation therapy) may be given before surgery to try to shrink the cancer and make it easier to remove.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is detected by endoscopy (EGD), manometry and 24 hour pH monitoring of the esophagus. Persistent, untreated GERD can be treated by laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgical methods. One such method is fundoplication. Most patients are discharged from hospital after an overnight stay and can return to work in about a week to 10 days.

Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Bleeding from the upper GI tract can be investigated and treated using upper endoscopy.  Bleeding from the lower GI tract can be addressed using colonoscopy. For bleeding from the small intestines, we can perform a video capsule endoscopy.  This process takes pictures of the small intestines to identify the source of bleeding.

Once the source is found, a specialized endoscopic procedure known as balloon enteroscopy can be performed. This locates the source within the small intestines and stops it. When bleeding cannot be stopped endoscopically, interventional radiology or other surgical techniques may be utilized.

Hepatitis

Hepatitis can be resolve on its own or can become chronic.  When chronic, it  can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. We offer various ways to diagnose, manage, treat, and monitor hepatitis. Diagnosis can be accomplished through routine blood work but sometimes requires liver biopsy. Treatments will vary , however the goal is always to reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of progression.

Hepatosteatosis

Diagnosis for hepatosteatosis is often made using imaging. Rarely liver biopsy is required. Treatment involves treatment of the causative factors.

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a general, overall term for patients who experience inflammation in their GI tract.  The most common IBDs are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. The diagnosis of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases is made through observation of a combination of clinical features.  We use blood tests (inflammatory markers), endoscopy and imaging (MRI and CT enterography). The inflammatory process can be controlled with various drugs that weaken the immune response. Surgery comes into play when the drugs are no longer effective.  Sometimes surgery is used when drugs produce negative side effects. Surgery is also necessary when bowel complications develop. Bowel complications include perforation, blockage or bleeding. In most cases, surgery is done laparoscopically, and the goal is to maintain the continuity of the gastrointestinal tract. We try to avoid, for example, an ileostomy or colostomy.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Although Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can cause discomfort, it does not harm the intestines. Many people believe that IBS is the same as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, however they are not. IBS describes all patients who experience inflammation in their GI tract.

Tests for IBS may include stool sampling, blood, and X-rays. Your doctor may also do a test called a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. Most people diagnosed with IBS can control their symptoms with diet, stress management, probiotics and medicine.

Liver Cancer

Blood tests may reveal liver cancer. Imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, CT and MRI, and removing a sample of liver tissue for testing (biopsy) may be recommended. If the cancerous lesion is within a defined area in the liver, surgery can be curative. Other treatment options include ablation, embolization, or both for the liver tumor(s). Other options may include targeted therapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy (either systemic or by hepatic artery infusion), or radiation therapy.

Morbid Obesity

Typically, a person is considered to have morbid obesity if their Body Mass Index (BMI) is 40 or above, or if they are more than 100 pounds overweight. BMI is calculated based on person’s height and weight.Morbid obesity can be treated effectively with laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgical techniques that involve either a sleeve gastrectomy or gastric bypass surgery. Most patients can be discharged from hospital after an overnight stay and can return to work in a week to 10 days.

 See if you qualify for bariatric surgery

Pancreatic Cancer

Techniques used to diagnose pancreatic cancer include ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and, sometimes, positron emission tomography (PET) scans.  The main treatment for pancreatic cancer is surgery. Chemotherapy or chemoradiation (chemotherapy plus radiation therapy) may be given before surgery to try to shrink the cancer and make it easier to remove.

When pancreatic cancer has spread, there are other forms of treatment including chemotherapy (with or without targeted therapy), palliative treatments to relieve pain, such as nerve blocks, and other supportive care; palliative surgery or stent placement to bypass blocked areas in ducts or the small intestine.

Pancreatitis

The initial manifestation of pancreatitis is pain and blood tests showing elevation of pancreatic enzymes.  The severity of pancreatitis is then gauged by CT scan.  An inflamed pancreas can lead to bleeding, infection, fluid collections and necrosis. 

Management of these complications includes embolization of bleeding vessels. We use interventional radiology, endoscopy for drainage of the cysts, fluid collections, and removal of the damaged tissue. Our team of gastroenterology specialists, surgeons, and endocrinology specialists manage and treat all aspects of pancreatitis. Treatment typically includes insulin and other blood sugar controlling medications. We sometimes use pancreatic enzyme replacement and nutritional optimization.

Peptic Ulcer Disease

Ulcers are most often diagnosed through upper endoscopy (EGD). A biopsy can also be taken to check for abnormal cells, cancer, or an infection with H. pylori. Most ulcers heal completely with medications. If untreated, it can cause complications like bleeding, perforation or obstruction.

Rectal Cancer

Diagnosis  for rectal cancer may be made by colonoscopy or physical exam. Once diagnosed, a thorough workup will ensue to determine if there is any spread of the cancer throughout the body, and also to determine the extent of the cancer within the pelvis. MRI or rectal ultrasound are used to provide preoperative staging.

Depending on the stage of the cancer, treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Treatment for rectal cancer is highly individualized and requires input from the surgeon, medical oncology specialist and radiation oncology specialist. Usually a temporary ileostomy is necessary during treatment, but occasionally a permanent colostomy is required. Most surgery for rectal cancer is performed laparoscopically or robotically and overall outcomes are very encouraging.

Rectal Prolapse

A thorough physical exam is usually sufficient to distinguish between rectal prolapse and hemorrhoids. Once the diagnosis has been made, the treatment is almost always surgical. Several approaches exist to manage this condition,. We use resection, rectopexy, or both. Your surgeon will help you decide which approach is right for you. 

Zenker's Diverticulum


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