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What type of doctor should treat your liver disease?
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Melissa Palmer, MD posted:
There are many different kinds of doctors who evaluate and treat people with liver disorders.

A gastroenterologist is an internist who has completed specialty training in the treatment of digestive disorders. Digestive disorders include disorders of the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, pancreas, gallbladder, and liver. In order to become board certified in gastroenterology, the doctor must first become board certified in internal medicine. In order to become eligible to even take the examination for board certification in gastroenterology, a gastrointestinal (GI) fellowship lasting an additional two to three years beyond an internal medicine residency must be completed.

During the course of their two to three years of training in gastroenterology, some gastroenterologists have little exposure to patients with liver disease. On the other hand, some gastroenterologists have a great deal of exposure to patients with liver disease during the course of their gastroenterology specialty training. Thus, the level of experience and expertise among gastroenterologists in diagnosing and treating liver disease varies greatly. It is important for the patient to determine the gastroenterologist's level of expertise in liver disease prior to establishing a long-term medical relationship with this type of doctor.

A hepatologist is the most experienced and qualified type of doctor to treat people with liver disease. There are specialized training programs for doctors who are focused solely on liver disease, - known hepatology fellowships and typically last from one to two years. Over the course of a hepatology fellowship, a doctor receives comprehensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of liver disease. This specialty training typically includes extensive exposure to all liver diseases, including those that are rare and infrequently seen. This intense training in liver disease is rarely matched in a gastroenterology fellowship.

A physician who successfully completes a hepatology fellowship is considered a hepatologist. Most hepatologists, although not all, are also gastroenterologists. These doctors have successfully completed both a hepatology and a gastroenterology fellowship. Occasionally, gastroenterologists who have not completed a fellowship in hepatology nonetheless focus their medical practice primarily on the diagnosis and treatment of people with liver disease.

For many reasons, it is to the patient's advantage to choose a hepatologist to treat his liver disease. The patient can be virtually assured that the hepatologist will have substantial experience in the diagnosis and treatment of the full range of liver diseases. Furthermore, hepatologists are likely to be the first to learn about the most up-to-date therapies—both FDA-approved and experimental—and to incorporate them into their practices. However, whether someone chooses to see a gastroenterologist or a hepatologist, it is important to find a doctor who is willing to work with him or her as an equal partner in the healing process.

The full article can be located at
http://www.liverdisease.com/liverspecialist_hepatitis.html
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