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What’s the difference between a colorectal surgeon and a gastroenterologist? If you find yourself confused about how these fields differ, rest assured, you’re not the only one: most patients are often confused about which field addresses their specific needs.

Though these fields have significant overlaps, they’re two different fields with different areas of specialties. This article gives you a brief overview of the similarities and differences between colorectal surgeons and gastroenterologists.


What is a colorectal surgeon?

Colorectal surgeons, formerly known as proctologists, are general surgeons with specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of problems arising in the colon, rectum, or anus.

They start with 5 years of surgical residency after medical school, followed by specialized training in colon and rectal surgery.

Colorectal surgeons often treat the following conditions — rectal or colon cancer, anal fissures, anal infections, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, etc. If necessary, they also provide colon and rectal operations, such as a colonoscopy, proctectomy (rectal removal), hemorrhoidectomy, and colectomy (colon resection).

Colorectal surgeons also often perform colonoscopies, a procedure wherein an instrument is used to extract precancerous colon polyps to diagnose or prevent colon cancer.

Similarities between colorectal surgeons and gastroenterologists

  • Both colorectal surgeons and gastroenterologists are trained to perform invasive treatments, such as an endoscopy or laparoscopy.
  • Both specialties necessitate a keen understanding of principles related to sedation techniques, post-procedure recovery, and surgical asepsis, i.e., keeping equipment sterile to prevent infections.
  • Both professionals may also treat patients with similar conditions, such as intestinal bleeding, irritable bowel syndrome, and colon cancer.

Differences between colorectal surgeons and gastroenterologists

  • Despite their similarities, colorectal surgeons and gastroenterologists are two different specialties.
  • Colorectal surgeons, for example, don’t deal with issues related to stomach, pancreas, and liver disease. They don’t deal with medical treatments for inflammatory bowel disease either — that’s a gastroenterologist’s area.
  • However, a colorectal surgeon may be necessary if the condition is bad enough to necessitate surgery.
  • Colorectal surgeons can provide medical treatments for hemorrhoids and anal fissures, and they only perform surgeries if the situation demands surgical intervention.
  • Ultimately, colorectal surgery and gastroenterology are related but different specialties.

Difference Between a Colorectal Surgeon and a Gastroenterologist

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Difference Between a Colorectal Surgeon and a Gastroenterologist
UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine - Dr. Zuri Murrell
Harbor Medical Center UCLA
Director of the Colorectal Cancer Center at Cedars-Sinai - Dr. Zuri Murrell
American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery - Dr. Zuri Murrell
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Please know that during this unprecedented time, as we shelter together to protect our community from COVID-19, Dr. Murrell will be available to care for any of your urgent and emergent colo-rectal needs.