The upper intestinal tract, also known as the upper GI tract, plays a major role in the body’s intake, breakdown, and absorption of food and drink. At Premier Bariatric Surgery, we perform surgeries that resolve conditions affecting the upper intestinal tract for St. Petersburg, FL, patients.
Anatomy of the Upper Intestinal Tract
The upper intestinal tract is made up of the mouth, the esophagus, the duodenum, the pancreas, the stomach, the liver, the gallbladder, and the spleen.
When a person eats or drinks, the material goes into the mouth, down the esophagus, through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), into the stomach, and then into the small intestine. The pancreas, liver, and gallbladder process the nutrients from this material. After this point, the lower intestinal tract begins its own processes.
Common Medical Issues Affecting This Area
There are many common medical issues that affect the upper intestinal tract:
- GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
- Hiatal Hernias
- Inflammation (Duodenitis, Esophagitis, Gastritis)
- Cancerous and Benign Tumors
- Esophageal Stricture (narrowing of the esophagus)
- Esophageal Varices (enlarged veins in the esophagus)
- Achalasia (issues with the lower esophageal sphincter)
- Gastroparesis (slowed stomach motility)
Common symptoms of underlying upper GI tract medical conditions include stomach pain, chest pressure, vomiting, anemia, pain or difficulty with swallowing, heartburn, belching, nausea, shortness of breath, bloating, and acid reflux.
Diagnosing Upper Intestinal Tract Issues
Dr. Alexander Ramirez is a board-certified surgeon who specializes in bariatric surgery and robotic and minimally invasive surgery. During a consultation, Dr. Ramirez will listen to your concerns and provide a diagnosis.
Two examples of diagnostic tests for upper intestinal tract problems are the upper GI endoscopy (an esophagogastroduodenoscopy, or EGD) and the upper GI test.
For an EGD, the patient is first given anesthesia to relax. An endoscope (a flexible tool with a camera and a light) is inserted through their mouth into their esophagus and down into their stomach. Images are projected on an external monitor. This allows for a detailed view of the upper intestinal tract.
For an upper GI test, the patient must first drink barium to coat their upper GI tract. A fluoroscope is held over the regions to take X-rays, which are projected on a video monitor.
Laparoscopic/Robotic Upper GI Surgeries
Laparoscopic and robotic upper GI surgeries involve the use of modern techniques to minimize incision size and limit tissue damage. This results in a shorter and more comfortable post-surgical recovery process with a lowered risk of complications.
A laparoscope is a tube with a camera and a light. In laparoscopic upper GI procedures, anesthesia is administered, and then 2-4 very tiny incisions are made on the abdomen to provide access for the laparoscope and other surgical tools.
Robotic surgery is done with the help of robotic arms that are controlled by the surgeon. A camera arm allows for precise viewing, and the other arms have surgical tools attached.
Premier Bariatric Surgery offers a number of laparoscopic and robotic upper intestinal tract surgeries, including the following:
Laparoscopic/Robotic Hiatal Hernia Repair: This is used to address hiatal and paraesophageal hernias. During it, tools are used to place the stomach tissue back into its correct position, and mesh may be placed to close the hiatal opening.
Laparoscopic Splenectomy: This is performed to remove sections of the spleen or the entire spleen. It is done when the spleen is damaged as a result of infections, conditions, or injuries.
Laparoscopic Pancreatic Surgery: This is done to remove parts of the pancreas in order to resolve pancreatitis and other conditions.
Laparoscopic/Robotic Nissen Fundoplication: This treats GERD by improving the lower esophageal sphincter’s ability to block stomach acid from reaching the esophagus. Intubation is required. The abdomen is inflated with carbon dioxide, and the fundus section of the stomach is wrapped over the lower esophageal sphincter. It is stitched in place, the carbon dioxide is let out, and the incisions are closed with stitches.
Heller Myotomy: This robotic surgery is used to treat achalasia. During it, the muscles of the lower esophageal sphincter are precisely cut so that food and liquids can pass through it.
Learn More During a Consultation
Dr. Alexander Ramirez regularly resolves problems with the upper intestinal tract for St. Petersburg, FL, patients. To learn more, arrange a consultation at Premier Bariatric Surgery. Dr. Ramirez has a great deal of experience and will be happy to answer your questions regarding procedure cost, recovery, and more.