The Difference Between a Gastroenterologist and a Colorectal Surgeon

Do you know what the difference is between a gastroenterologist and a colorectal surgeon? While we treat many of the same conditions there are some inherent differences in these two specialties. Knowing this difference will guide you to the right specialist. A colorectal surgeon, may also be known as a proctologist. That’s what I am. To become a colorectal surgeon, you must first become a general surgeon, which includes 5 years of surgical residency after medical school, where you learn how to do all sorts of surgeries from gallbladder surgery, hernia surgery, breast surgery, and even vascular surgery. You then do an extra year of specialty surgical training in colon and rectal surgery to become an expert in surgery for the colon, rectum and anus treating everything from hemorrhoids and anal fistulas to colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis and pelvic floor disorders.  During that time you also learn to perform colonoscopy and endoluminal procedures. Many colorectal surgeons practice both general surgery and colorectal surgery, and some choose to specialize only in colorectal surgery (me), despite being board certified in both. Gastroenterologists, on the other hand, first complete 3 years of medical residency, learning to care for all medical conditions from diabetes and heart disease to pneumonia and rheumatoid arthritis. They then do 3 years of specialty training in the medical management of gastrointestinal diseases and learn to do colonoscopy and endoscopy. Some do an extra year of training in inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, or advanced endoscopy as an example. While most GI doctors do endoscopic procedures they don’t don’t operate on patients. So a small polyp found at...
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