Frequently Asked Questions
How do we get started?
Your doctor will get involved right from the start by conducting a "Patient History". Some of the questions may not seem important, but sometimes small facts can make a big difference.
Your information will help us get a better idea of the nature of your problem, the diagnostic procedures we may recommend and the medications your body will tolerate, if medications are necessary.
We will ask you to provide personal insurance information. This will enable us to maintain accurate data to file insurance claims on your behalf.
Please bring your insurance cards with you at the time of your visit. Many times the visit cannot be completed without it.
Will I still need my family doctor?
Yes, you will. Should you have a problem which requires continuing treatment by us, your family physician will continue to advise and/or treat your other "non-gastroenterology" problems. Your family physician and your gastroenterologist often consult each other regarding your care.
With seven doctors in the practice, will I only see one?
In the office setting you will see "your" doctor. As a backup or for urgent situations, the other doctors in our group may see you. This gives you the assurance that one of the physicians will always be available. Additionally, our office is staffed with trained gastroenterology nurses who are available to answer clinical questions, provide physician recommendations and discuss your test results.
What should I know about insurance?
Please remember that you are financially responsible to the physician and your insurance company is financially responsible to you. We are certainly "on your side" to get the best reimbursement possible from your insurance company and we will be happy to assist you with this as needed. You are responsible for obtaining a referral form from your primary care physician, if one is required by your plan.
We are "participating" physicians in Medicare and accept most insurance plans. Please feel free to discuss the specifics of your plan with our knowledgeable staff. Our billing number is 803.939.4100.
What is a colonoscopy?
This is an examination of the entire large intestine using a flexible, lighted instrument by specially trained gastroenterologists.
Why am I having a colonoscopy?
Your physician may be ordering this examination for a variety of reasons. Some of the more common reasons include blood that was detected in the stool, colonic polyps, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or altered bowel habits. It may also be used as a follow-up examination in someone who has had an abnormal barium enema or other chronic problems.
How do I prepare myself for a colonoscopy?
You will be given a colonoscopy prep kit and dietary instructions at the time your colonoscopy is scheduled. It is very important that the colon be properly prepared prior to the colonoscopy or the examination may be unsatisfactory.
Are there risks involved with a colonoscopy?
All procedures carry some risk. Fortunately, the occurrence of major complications is very low in this procedure when done by a trained gastroenterologist. The potential major complications include severe bleeding or possibly perforation of the colon. This occurs in less than one in a thousand cases. If biopsies or polypectomies (removal of polyps) are performed, the risk may increase. You will be given intravenous sedation (usually Demerol and Versed) before the procedure. This will help with the discomfort that may be felt when advancing the colonoscope around the colon. There is a small chance (10-15%) that the entire colon cannot be examined. This is generally seen in patients who have had previous abdominal surgery or who have severe diverticulosis. In this case, a follow-up barium enema may be ordered.
How will I feel after the colonoscopy?
You may be slightly groggy from the sedation just after the procedure. You may experience some gas discomfort which generally passes quickly. Usually you can eat or drink anything after the procedure. We ask that you not drive after the procedure, but you can go about your business as usual the next day. If you have any severe abdominal pain, fever, or vomiting, you should report this to your physician immediately.
What is an EGD?
An EGD (Esophagogastroduodenoscopy) is an examination of the esophagus, stomach and the first part of the small intestine called the duodenum, using a flexible, lighted instrument.
Why am I having an EGD?
Your physician may be ordering this examination for a variety of reasons. Some of the more common reasons are evaluations of swallowing problems, chest pain, severe heartburn symptoms, persistent nausea or upset stomach. Other reasons include abdominal pain and a follow-up examination to an abnormal upper GI series.
How do I prepare myself for an EGD?
Usually you will be asked to not eat or drink anything or take anything by mouth after midnight on the evening before your procedure.
Are there risks involved with an EGD?
All procedures carry some risk. Fortunately, the occurrence of major complications is very low in this procedure. The potential major complications include severe bleeding or possibly perforation. This occurs less than one in a thousand cases. You will be given intravenous sedation (usually Demerol and Versed) before the procedure and numbing spray to the back of the throat.
How will I feel after the EGD?
Generally, you may be slightly groggy from the sedation just after the procedure. You may experience some gas discomfort as air is used to inflate the stomach. This generally passes quickly.
You can eat or drink anything after the procedure once the numbing medicine applied to the back of the throat has subsided. We ask that you not drive after the procedure, but you can go about your business as usual the next day. If you have any severe abdominal pain, fever or vomiting, report this to your physician immediately.
What is an ERCP?
ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography) is a specialized technique used to study the ducts of the gallbladder, pancreas, and liver. Ducts are drainage routes; the ducts from the gallbladder and liver are called bile or biliary ducts, while the duct from the pancreas is called the pancreatic duct.
What preparation is required for an ERCP?
The patient should fast after midnight the night before the test. This will ensure that the stomach is empty. Please inform your physician of any allergies to medications including contrast material.
What can I expect during an ERCP?
An IV will be placed in your arm so you can receive sedation prior to the procedure. You will be asked to lie on your left side and a local anesthetic will be sprayed in the back of your throat. The physician will then pass an endoscope through your mouth, esophagus, stomach and into the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). When the common opening to ducts from the liver and pancreas are visualized, a narrow catheter will be passed through the endoscopy and into the ducts. The physician will then inject dye into the ducts and will take x-rays. There may be a bloating sensation due to the air that is introduced through the instrument.
What are possible complications of an ERCP?
ERCP is a well-tolerated procedure when performed by gastroenterologists, who have had specialized training in the technique. Although complications requiring hospitalization can occur, they are uncommon. Complications can include pancreatitis (an inflammation or infection of the pancreas), infections, bowel perforation and bleeding. Sometimes the procedure cannot be completed for technical reasons.
Risks vary, depending on why the test is performed, what is found during the procedure, what therapeutic intervention is undertaken, and whether a patient has major medical problems.
What treatments can be performed with an ERCP?
Sphincterotomy is cutting the muscle that surrounds the opening of the ducts. This cut is made to enlarge the opening. A small wire on the catheter uses electric current to cut the tissue. This does not cause discomfort since there are no nerve endings located there.
Stone removal from the bile duct is the most common treatment. These stones may have formed in the gallbladder and traveled into the bile duct or may form in the duct itself years after your gallbladder has been removed. After a sphincterotomy is performed, stones can be pulled from the duct into the bowel. A variety of balloons and baskets attached to the catheter can be passed through the scope into the ducts allowing stone removal.
Stent placement may be necessary to bypass strictures, or narrowed parts of the duct. These narrowed areas are due to scar tissue or tumors that cause blockage of normal duct drainage.
Balloon dilation is used to stretch the stricture. Dilations with balloons are often performed when the cause of the narrowing is benign. A temporary stent may be placed after dilation to help maintain the dilation.
A tissue biopsy or brushing may be taken to determine if a stricture is due to a cancer.
What can I expect after an ERCP?
If ERCP is performed as an outpatient, you will be observed for complications until most of the effects of the medications have worn off. You might experience bloating or pass gas because of the air introduced during the examination. You can resume your usual diet unless instructed otherwise.
Someone must accompany you home from the procedure because of the sedatives used during the exam. Even if you feel alert after the procedure, the sedatives can affect your judgment and reflexes for the rest of the day.