Digestive Health

Doctor with elderly male patient discussing digestive health

Created in 2013, the UAB Digestive Health Center helps patients more effectively manage digestive conditions and improve their lifestyles. Staffed by a multi-specialty team of experts, the center combines our expertise in GI care, GI surgery, colorectal surgery, and transplant surgery with hepatology, which focuses on treating conditions of the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and the vessels (known as the biliary tree) that connect those organs.

UAB Medicine is known worldwide as a leading center for digestive and liver disorders. Our gastroenterology and GI program is consistently ranked among the nation’s best by U.S. News & World Report. We see over 20,000 patients and perform more than 12,000 outpatient procedures each year.

About the center

The UAB Digestive Health Center provides the full range of evaluation and testing services in a single location, including a state-of-the-art endoscopy center on site. We offer the most advanced minimally invasive surgical techniques, which allow for much faster healing and fewer potential complications than with traditional open surgery. Our providers work closely with a variety of other specialties, including nutrition and pain management, to develop comprehensive care plans and provide an excellent patient experience. Patients who meet certain criteria can meet with both the medical and surgical teams in a single visit.

Conditions treated

  • Upper GI disease, including Barrett’s esophagus
  • Pancreatic and biliary disease, including cancer
  • Acute and chronic pancreatitis
  • Colorectal disease, including cancer
  • Obesity
  • Gallstones
  • Thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal disease
  • Hiatal and paraesophageal hernias
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and acid reflux
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Small bowel disorders
  • Celiac disease (also known as celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy)

Procedures & services

  • Evaluation for liver transplantation
  • Double-balloon enteroscopy
  • Radiofrequency (RF) ablation
  • Endoscopic submucosal resection
  • Diagnostic and therapeutic ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography)
  • Bariatric surgery for obesity, using minimally invasive and robotic techniques
  • Robotic colon and rectal surgery
  • Advanced GI laparoscopy
  • Anti-reflux procedures

GI care at UAB Medicine

UAB Medicine continues to lead advancements in gastroenterology through active clinical research trials involving the latest drug therapies and other treatments for digestive disorders. Our doctors and scientists are searching for causes and cures for many GI illnesses through basic research. For example, they study how the bacteria in our intestines affect our health.

Our GI program is also historically significant. The inventor of the endoscope, Basil Hirschowitz, M.D., founded our program more than 50 years ago. His innovation revolutionized diagnoses for GI and other conditions and continues to inspire us today. Our interventional endoscopy group, which includes endoscopic ultrasound, is one of the busiest and most prestigious in the country – both clinically and academically.

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Esophageal Function Testing

UAB Medicine offers a full range of testing on the function of the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. These tests usually are ordered to evaluate conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), esophageal motility disorders/difficulty swallowing, achalasia, and hiatal hernias.

Some of the esophageal function tests offered at UAB Medicine are described below:

High-resolution esophageal manometry: A thin, pressure-sensitive tube is passed into the esophagus to determine if it is contracting and relaxing properly. This test is mainly used to diagnose swallowing disorders such as achalasia and esophageal spasms, and it is often done prior to anti-reflux surgery.

pH monitoring: A thin tube is inserted into the esophagus, and it remains in place for 24 hours to monitor how and when stomach acid enters the esophagus and what the acid level is. Patients keep a food diary during the 24-hour test, which allows the physician to determine if symptoms are connected to acid reflux. This test also may help determine whether breathing symptoms are caused by reflux.

Bravo monitoring: A wireless monitoring device is temporarily implanted into the esophagus to measure any and all acid reflux that occurs during the 48- to 96-hour testing period. The Bravo device is placed during an upper endoscopy, or EGD, while the patient is sedated. The device collects information that is wirelessly transmitted and stored on a recording device worn by the patient during the testing period.

Impedance testing: A thin tube is inserted into the esophagus to measure gas or liquids that may cause reflux or are entering the esophagus. It helps assess regurgitation or reflux of non-acidic substances. This test is often performed along with pH monitoring.

Functional luminal impedance planimetry (FLIP): The FLIP test is used during an endoscopy to measure the distensibility (swelling/stiffness) of the esophagus. The information collected is combined with the results of a high-resolution esophageal manometry test and is used to screen for unknown motility (movement) disorders of the esophagus in patients who have trouble swallowing.


Related Specialties

Clinical Trials

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