Advanced Digestive Diagnostics

By David Hambrick, BSN, RN, CGRN, Manager, GI Lab, Methodist Dallas Medical Center

If it seems like more people are diagnosed with digestive diseases these days, it’s true. An aging population and higher levels of obesity and diabetes are just a few of the reasons for the increase. Greater awareness of screening procedures to help detect conditions that might lead to colon cancer, such as colonoscopy, along with advances in digestive diagnostics and treatments also enable us to detect potential problems earlier and provide effective, timely intervention.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), for example, is the fastest growing upper GI issue, primarily because of the aging population and obesity. Patients who have long-term GERD are at risk for Barrett’s esophagus, which has been identified as a precursor to esophageal cancer. If clinicians tests detect precancerous cells in the esophagus, patients can receive advanced treatments such as tissue ablation using radio frequency or cryotherapy or surgery with minimally invasive endoscopic procedures.

Other trends in treating digestive diseases include the following:

  • Endoscopic ultrasound to examine the pancreas, suspicious lesions of the GI mucosa, and local lymph nodes assist with fine-needle aspirations to obtain tissue diagnosis without surgery and help to stage cancers

  • Confocal microscopy (a probe with a laser-based microscope on the end) to examine cellular changes or atypical cells during endoscopy and cholangioscopy

  • Cholangioscopy with the SpyGlass® System to visualize the biliary ducts

  • Esophageal motility studies to help diagnose swallowing disorders or as a presurgery check to make sure the esophagus is working as it should[1]

Methodist Health System is a regional leader in diagnosing and treating digestive disorders. Patients can benefit with earlier diagnoses and the initiation of appropriate treatment that can often be started during diagnostic procedures. When indicated, physicians can remove tissue containing atypical or cancerous cells or insert a stent to open an obstruction in the bile or pancreatic duct, esophagus, duodenum, or colon.

For clinicians considering a job in the area of digestive diseases, here are some things to consider:

  • Does the center offer leading-edge technology to diagnose disease as well as provide appropriate intervention?

  • Does it have support from the rest of the hospital and other departments such as anesthesia, surgery, and lab?

  • Do other departments appreciate the work they do? This is important because a good diagnostics department is a portal to the hospital for other procedures that might be identified.

  • Does the facility participate in professional organizations and research projects? Methodist, for example, is one of six centers in the country participating in a National Institutes of Health gastroenterology study.

Ultimately, advanced digestive diagnostics may provide patients with quicker identification of disease processes, quicker intervention and treatment, and quicker recovery and return to

daily activities. As caregivers, our goal is to mitigate the problem or identify the appropriate plan of care, the sooner the better.

To join a team of clinicians who lighten the load for patients and co-workers, visit

Texas law prohibits hospitals from practicing medicine. The physicians on the Methodist Health System medical staff are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Methodist Health System.


© 2011 Methodist Health System

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Posted Clinical Trends