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Merck Manual

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Introduction to Diagnosis of Digestive Disorders


Jonathan Gotfried

, MD, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Last full review/revision Jun 2019| Content last modified Jun 2019
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Disorders that affect the digestive (gastrointestinal) system are called digestive disorders. Some disorders simultaneously affect several parts of the digestive system, whereas others affect only one part or organ. (See also Overview of the Digestive System.)

Based on the findings of the medical history, physical examination, and, if applicable, psychologic evaluation, doctors choose appropriate tests. Tests done on the digestive system include the following:

These tests can help a doctor locate, diagnose, and sometimes treat a problem. Some tests require the digestive system to be cleared of stool, some require fasting, and others require no preparation.

Although diagnostic tests can be very useful in diagnosing the presence or absence of certain medical disorders, they can also be quite expensive and, in rare cases, cause bleeding or injury. It is important to discuss risks and benefits of a test with the doctor.

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