Diseases affecting the gastrointestinal tract, which include the organs from mouth into anus, along the alimentary canal, are the focus of this speciality. Physicians practicing in this field are called gastroenterologists. They have usually completed about eight years of pre-medical and medical education, a year-long internship (if this is not a part of the residency), three years of an internal medicine residency, and two to three years in the gastroenterology fellowship. Gastroenterologists perform a number of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures including colonoscopy, endoscopy, endoscopic retrograde cholangiancreatography (ERCP), endoscopic ultrasound and liver biopsy. Some gastroenterology trainees will complete a "fourth-year" (although this is often their seventh year of graduate medical education) in transplant hepatology, advanced endoscopy, inflammatory bowel disease, motility or other topics.
Hepatology, or hepatobiliary medicine, encompasses the study of the liver, pancreas, and biliary tree, while proctology encompasses the fields of anus and rectum diseases. They are traditionally considered sub-specialties of gastroenterology.
Drawings of Bozzini's "Lichtleiter", an early endoscope
Citing from Egyptianpapyri, John F. Nunn identified significant knowledge of gastrointestinal diseases among practicing physicians during the periods of the pharaohs. Irynakhty, of the tenth dynasty, c. 2125 B.C., was a court physician specializing in gastroenterology, sleeping, and proctology.
Rudolf Schindler described many important diseases involving the human digestive system during World War I in his illustrated textbook and is portrayed by some as the "father of gastroscopy". He and Georg Wolf developed a semiflexible gastroscope in 1932.
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