Proctology is a term used to describe the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the lower part of the gastrointestinal tract, namely the colon (sometimes referred to as the large intestine), the rectum and the anus.  The medical specialist who studies this region of the body can either be termed a proctologist or a colorectal surgeon, which is the more modern term, and the one now generally preferred within the profession.

A proctology examination will involve looking at the colon in order to identify any abnormalities, such as growths or inflammation (swelling).  There are a number of different ways that your Los Angeles proctologist can carry out an examination, and before this is done, they will discuss the benefits and risks with you.  You will have the opportunity to ask any questions that you might have before the procedure is carried out.

What types of procedures may be performed?
The most commonly used procedure to screen the colon for any abnormalities is a colonoscopy.  This will generally be carried out under sedation.  

A colonoscopy involves the insertion of a narrow, flexible tube into the colon, by passing it through the anus.  On the end of this tube is a camera, which allows the surgeon to view the lining of the colon on a computer screen.  This procedure looks at the inner lining of the entire colon, and is the most accurate method of detecting abnormalities in this region of the body. Colonoscopy is an extremely safe screening procedure, and it can also be used to take tissue samples (this is called a biopsy) or to remove abnormal growths before they turn cancerous.  The majority of screening proctology exams carried out by your Los Angeles doctor will be colonoscopies.

Are there any other procedures?
It is also possible that the procedure carried out could be a flexible sigmoidoscopy.  This is a very similar procedure to the colonoscopy, because it also involves a flexible tube with a camera.  However, it only looks at the last part of the bowel, which is called the sigmoid colon, and is approximately two feet in length.  It cannot be used to remove growths or take tissue samples, so if these are required, another procedure will need to be carried out at a later date.

A less invasive method of looking at the colon is to use a barium sample and x-rays.  The barium sample, is given as an enema.   The barium enables the digestive system to be shown on x-rays, though it is a much less accurate screening procedure than either the colonoscopy or the sigmoidoscopy.  This is not as accurate as the colonoscopy, requires a bowel cleansing prior to the procedure and also requires the use of radiation during the procedure.

One more method that may be used in a proctology examination is a CT colonography.  This requires a CT scan of your body, which produces a 3D image of the bowel.  This is not as accurate as the colonoscopy, requires a bowel cleansing prior to the procedure and also requires the use of radiation during the procedure.

As such, most patients opt to have a colonoscopy as the screening procedure of choice.

The options will be discussed in full with you by your LA surgeon before any procedures are carried out, so you will be able to find out what the benefits and risks of each procedure are.

What should I do then?
If you think that you would benefit from a proctology examination, then you will need to make an appointment with a Los Angeles specialist.  There are many colorectal surgeons in the area, so what you need to do next is choose one and book your initial consultation.  You will then be able to discuss your symptoms and any concerns that you might have.  Changes in bowel habits are usually an indication that you need to see a doctor, particularly if they persist for longer than a week.


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    Physicians specializing in proctology are called colorectal surgeons or proctologists. In the United States, to become colorectal surgeons, these surgical doctors have to complete a general surgery residency, as well as a colorectal surgery fellowship, upon which they are eligible to be certified in their field of expertise by the ABCRS or AOBP.


    May 2013
    April 2013