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Medical specialty dealing with digestion and the digestive system. In the 17th century Jan Baptista van Helmont conducted the first scientific studies in the field; William Beaumont published his own observations in 1833. Lavage (washing out the stomach) and endoscopy were developed in the 19th century, and endoscopy and X rays with a contrast medium were first used to visualize the stomach and digestive organs in the 1890s. Gastroenterologists diagnose and treat disorders of the stomach, intestines, liver, and pancreas, including ulcers, tumours, inflammatory diseases (including ulcerative colitis and ileitis), and rectal disorders.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on gastroenterology, visit Britannica.com.