If you are suffering from problems like indigestion, heartburn, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation or diarrhea, or stomach pain, consult New York City gastroenterologists of Manhattan Gastroenterology regarding diagnosis and treatment. An experienced gastroenterologist can prevent, diagnose and treat all kinds of digestive disorders related to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, While the conditions that colorectal surgeons and gastroenterologists treat may overlap, there are key differences in the treatments they offer. They include: liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. However, if your conditions cannot be controlled by diet, lifestyle changes, or medications and you require surgery, your doctor may refer you to a colorectal surgeon to help you in this regard. Seek advice from award-winning physicians at Manhattan Gastroenterology to learn if you need a colorectal surgeon or a gastroenterologist to get the best treatment recommendations regarding your condition.

Although gastroenterologists and colorectal surgeons are both physicians, there are differences in their training and practice due to which they serve their patients differently. However, these specialists may treat similar conditions and use some of the same techniques or equipment to help their patients.

Knowing the difference between a colorectal surgeon and a gastroenterologist can help you make the right choice if you are suffering from some gastrointestinal issue and want the best advice regarding treatment. Although these fields connect in some areas, the specialties are very different due to the conditions they treat and the way they address those problems. Understanding which type of physician can address your symptoms and provide the best guidance ensures you find reliable medical assistance without wasting any time and enjoy swift and lasting relief.

What Does a Colorectal Surgeon Do?

Formerly known as a proctologist, a colorectal surgeon is an expert in surgery for various problems related to the colon, rectum, and anus. Colon and rectal surgeons undergo further training for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders related to the lower body. They can treat benign and malignant conditions, perform routine colon screening examinations, and surgically treat problems when needed.

A colorectal surgeon is fully trained and skilled to evaluate, diagnose and treat the following symptoms and conditions:

Many colorectal surgeons practice both general surgery and colorectal surgery, and some choose to specialize only in colorectal surgery. They use techniques such as microsurgery, a surgical procedure performed under a microscope, or laparoscopy, a procedure that is minimally invasive and performed through one or more small incisions.

What Does a Gastroenterologist Do?

Do i need a colorectal surgeon or a gastroenterologist

A gastroenterologist is a doctor who has completed initial training in internal medicine and received further expertise and specialization in gastroenterology. Gastroenterologists are experts at diagnosing, treating, and preventing ailments of the digestive system or gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Gastroenterologists have basic training regarding the functions of the digestive system. They focus on conditions that affect the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine as well as biliary systems, such as the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts. Gastroenterologists can look inside the digestive tract using specialized instruments such as the endoscope. Endoscopy techniques are also used to remove polyps, stretch a narrowed esophagus or stop bleeding.

A Colorectal Surgeon or a Gastroenterologist – Which Specialist Do You Need?

It is gastroenterologists who treat stomach, pancreatic, and liver disorders, not colorectal surgeons. Gastroenterologists may also receive additional training in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, liver disease, or advanced endoscopy, to name a new, but they do not operate on patients. A gastroenterologist may be able to remove a small polyp found during the colonoscopy, but if it is a large one that cannot be removed through endoscopy then it will require surgery. They will recommend you to a surgeon specialized in certain areas if you require surgery.

The gastroenterologists may be able to recommend medication, dietary, and lifestyle changes to help with your condition, but they will not perform surgery. In such cases, gastroenterologists refer patients to colorectal surgeons for further investigation and treatment regarding their symptoms.

While the conditions that colorectal surgeons and gastroenterologists treat may overlap, there are key differences in the treatments they offer, including:

  • Colorectal surgeons generally do not treat stomach, pancreas, and liver diseases. They are taken care of by a gastroenterologist. If you require surgery for these conditions, you will have to schedule an appointment with a surgeon who specializes in those areas.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is not a surgical condition, and it is also treated by GI doctors.
  • Colorectal surgeons do not offer medical treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. GI doctors look into these diseases and disorders, but at times, surgical intervention may become necessary if your condition deteriorates and medications fail to work.
  • Colorectal surgeons do more than just surgery, particularly when it comes to anal diseases. They also offer non-surgical, medical approaches to hemorrhoids and anal fissures. When it comes to hemorrhoids gastroenterologists typically manage internal hemorrhoids (with non-surgical procedures) and colorectal surgeons manage external hemorrhoids (with surgery). When it comes to anal fissures gastroenterologists and colorectal surgeons will first try medical options and only if it fails a colorectal surgeon may have to do a surgical procedure.

Medicine vs. Surgery

Internal medicine is the parent specialty of gastroenterology, while surgery treats disease or injury by operative procedures. Both are very different medical disciplines with separate training focuses. Although gastroenterologists may perform some medical procedures, once the diagnosis has been made or initial treatment performed, their focus is on medical management.

On the other hand, as the name proposes, colorectal surgeons are surgical specialists who are trained and qualified to perform invasive treatments. They do not handle any issues related to the stomach, pancreas, and liver. They provide medical treatment for hemorrhoids and anal fissures. The surgeons only perform surgeries if the condition is severe and the situation demands surgical intervention to help the patient seek relief from intense pain and discomfort.

These fields significantly overlap at times, but they work their own way to treat patients with similar conditions, such as intestinal bleeding, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and colon cancer. What a gastroenterologist or a colorectal surgeon can do for them can be often confusing for patients, especially when it appears both the doctors do the same procedure. Knowing the similarities and differences between the two plays a significant role in finding the best treatment and surgical options for your digestive issues.

Book your appointment at Manhattan Gastroenterology if you are suffering from any issues related to the GI tract, including the esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestine. Gastroenterologists have basic training regarding the function of the digestive system. They focus on conditions that affect the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, as well as biliary systems, such as the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts. On the other hand, you will have to see a colorectal surgeon if your problems cannot be managed by medications, and surgery is the last resort. Learning what a gastroenterologist or a colorectal surgeon can do for you gives you a chance to seek the most appropriate treatment at the right time and enjoy a better quality of life.

Updated on Nov 2, 2023 by Dr. Shawn Khodadadian (Gastroenterologist) of Manhattan Gastroenterology