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A pain in the gut: a look at the diagnosis of gastrointestinal disease

Accurate diagnosis of GI disease is fundamental for appropriate patient management. Focusing on four common diseases, Carolyne Horner describes how a selection of commercial kits may supplement diagnostic methods and support diagnosis.

In simple terms, the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a flexible tube with an entrance at one end (mouth), a sphincter-controlled exit (anus) at the other, with a series of organs (pharynx, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine) in between. Add to that the closely regulated function of the pancreas, gall bladder and liver, the enteric nervous system, not to mention the 100 trillion microorganisms that form the teeming intestinal microbiota,1 and the GI tract emerges as a complex, interacting system associated with a correspondingly complex range of disorders and diseases.

Tummy troubles

Diseases of the GI tract are diverse, ranging from acute foodborne infection, chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), to life-threatening colorectal cancer (Fig 1). Gastrointestinal disease may be mild and transitory causing a minor inconvenience, or may be severe and affect the quality of life of the patient on a daily basis, or may even require life-changing surgery, such as removal of a section of colon and the need for a stoma bag.

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