The liver, pancreas and gallbladder are three organs closely positioned together anatomically and closely associated in their digestive functions. After primary care physicians, Lourdes gastroenterologists often serve as a next level of care in evaluating and managing care for conditions of these organs, the treatment of which may involve other collaborating specialists.
Among other functions, the liver produces bile, an alkaline juice that helps the gut to dissolve and digest fatty foods. The liver has a number of other life-sustaining roles, and its function is critical and irreplaceable. The bile duct stores bile for controlled release into the small intestine. Among other functions, the pancreas secretes digestive juices into the small intestine, in this case with enzymes that help to break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
|Lourdes GI doctors are highly knowledgeable and vigilant about the conditions related to the functions of the interconnected organs of pancreas, liver and gallbladder.|
Range of Conditions Affecting These Organs
Lourdes GI specialists serve as an important source for identifying or further diagnosing these conditions:
- jaundice. Jaundice is actually a symptom not a condition, and it is easily identified by yellowing of the skin and of the whites of the eyes. It usually signals that the liver is not functioning well in its role of breaking down the iron-containing chemical in red blood cells that have aged, possibly signaling the presence of hepatitis or cirrhosis. Or, it can be a sign of bile duct obstruction.
- hepatitis. A number of causes can lead to liver inflammation, but viral infection is the most common, and in these cases hepatitis C is the form of the disease of most widespread and serious concern. Lourdes GI physicians can identify risks and signs of this condition and can help oversee care in collaboration with Lourdes’ hepatologists (liver specialists).
- cirrhosis. The liver can lose function as a result of scarring, a serious condition that can be due to toxic exposure (including from alcohol) or injury or other condition. Lourdes GI physicians can identify risks and signs of this condition and can help oversee care in collaboration with Lourdes’ hepatologists (liver specialists).
- gallstones. Tiny crystals of minerals can sometimes form in the gallbladder and then continue to deposit and accumulate, eventually forming stonelike nodules that can vary in size from microscopic to nearly the size of a golf ball. Depending on their position, size and shape, and whether they shift position in the gallbladder, these stones can cause significant pain and can sometimes obstruct the bile duct. They can also cause nausea, vomiting, jaundice or symptoms of infection. Endoscopic or radiologic imaging can help to confirm the presence and nature of such stones. Lourdes GI specialists can offer treatments ranging from drugs to dissolve the stone, to shockwave treatment that breaks up the stone to endoscopic removal of the stone. They refer some patients to a Lourdes general surgeon for open or laparoscopic removal of the stone or gallbladder.
- primary sclerosing cholangitis. For unknown reasons, the bile ducts of the liver, as well as the ducts of the gallbladder and pancreas can sometimes become inflamed. Eventually this can cause scarring and blockage of these ducts, which can lead to additional tissue damage. Eventually a person with this silent condition will become tired and disinterested in eating, and will experience nutritional problems, weight loss and jaundice. Endoscopic and radiologic imaging help to confirm the diagnosis of primary sclerosing cholangitis. The underlying condition cannot be treated, but Lourdes GI specialists can address the symptoms from itching to infection to nutritional deficiencies. In addition, interventional specialists can use radiologic-guided procedures to reopen the bile ducts. Surgery to bypass the duct blockage is also an option.
- pancreatitis. The pancreas can become inflamed due to a variety of conditions, including pancreatic cysts; however, gallstones passing through the common bile duct, alcohol abuse or trauma account for the majority of cases. When the pancreas is not functioning or draining correctly, digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas can start to digest the pancreas itself. Acute bouts cause abdominal pain, GI problems and symptoms of infection. Radiologic imaging helps confirm the condition. Intermittent pancreatic damage from inflammation can result in chronic loss of function for this organ, leading to diabetes, malnutrition and other problems. IV feeding and fluids in the hospital may be part of the treatment, followed by careful reintroduction of oral diet. Endoscopy provided by Lourdes experienced gastroenterologists can also serve to diagnose and reopen compromised pancreatic or bile ducts that may cause or exacerbate the inflammation. The specialists use a duodenoscope for a procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography (ERCP).
- cancers of the liver or pancreas. Lourdes GI specialists are highly trained in the signs and symptoms of these conditions and promptly oversee testing and collaboration with Lourdes Cancer Center when these cancers are suspected for diagnosed. Lourdes delivers the most up-to-date treatments for these GI cancers, including the most advanced forms of radiation and chemotherapy and surgical interventions. Learn more.
For severe conditions affecting the liver, sometimes liver transplantation is the only cure. Lourdes respected hepatologists can offer evaluation for serious liver conditions and help to manage patients who enter the transplant program in Lourdes’ accomplished Regional Organ Transplantation Center.
The respected Liver Disease Program at Lourdes offers dedicated first-rate knowledge and capabilities in addressing liver diseases.