A colorectal surgeon, sometimes called a proctologist, is a doctor that treats diseases of the intestinal tract, colon, rectum, and anal canal. Colorectal surgeons receive extensive training in both general surgery and colon and rectal medicine.
Students who want to become colorectal surgeons are required to attend medical school and graduate with either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.). To become a colorectal surgeon, physicians will be required to complete both a residency program and a fellowship training program.
Colorectal surgeons complete an extensive 5-6 year residency program in general surgery. After completing the residency program surgeons will take an extra 1-2 year fellowship training program that specializes in colorectal surgeries.
To practice medicine, colorectal surgeons must obtain a medical license. Medical licenses are awarded at the state level, so the requirements will change from state to state. Medical licenses enable doctors to practice medicine but do not specify in which field of medicine the doctor has specialized.
To demonstrate qualification in one area of medicine, doctors will become board certified. Colorectal surgeons are board certified both by the American Board of Surgery, and the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery. To become board certified, doctors must demonstrate expertise in their field of medicine and pass extensive oral and written tests.
Colorectal surgeons must maintain board certification by maintaining a professional status, taking continued education classes, and by re-taking the examinations.
Where Colorectal Surgeons Work
Colorectal surgeons typically work in hospitals or surgical centers, either in private practices or directly for the heath care centers. These doctors work with a variety of other health care professionals. Colorectal surgeons may also work in clinical, research, or educational settings.
How They Help People
Colorectal surgeons use invasive procedures to treat conditions in the colon, rectal areas, and digestive tract. These doctors have a comprehensive knowledge of general surgery and special surgical procedures used for the colon, rectum, and surrounding anatomy.
Patients usually see colorectal surgeons on referral from their primary care physicians. They may already have a diagnosis or may go to the surgeon for a health analysis. When a patient goes to visit a colorectal surgeon the doctor will talk to the patient to understand the full medical history, and will provide a number of diagnostic tests. These can include an ultrasound, a colonoscopy, or a sigmoidoscopy (a procedure to see inside the colon and rectum).
Common conditions treated by colorectal surgeons include:
- Colorectal cancer
- Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis)
- Bowel incontinence
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Pelvic dysfunction
- Anal abscess
- Colon polyps
- Other intestinal problems
To treat these conditions, colorectal surgeons will perform procedures like bile duct reconstruction, colectomy, bowel sparing procedures, and hemorrhoidal banding and excisions.
Colorectal surgeons may also perform routine screening exams on patients like a colonoscopy to check for colorectal cancer.
The average salary for colorectal surgeons is $407,273.
Medical Negligence and Colorectal Surgeons
Medical studies show that the two most common malpractice cases against colorectal surgeons are: failing to recognize a complication in a timely manner, and damage to surrounding tissue. Colorectal surgery is often high-risk, meaning that doctors must expertly perform complex procedures and need to follow-up with their patients after surgery to ensure proper recovery and no complications.
Another major concern in colorectal surgery is diagnosis errors. Colorectal surgeons treat patients that may have hemorrhoids, obstructed bowels, or colorectal cancer, all conditions that require quick attention or risk causing serious health issues. Every year in the United States, there is 95,270 new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed and 49,190 deaths from colorectal cancer. When doctors fail to order the proper diagnostic tests or perform the correct surgical treatment, patients suffer.
Malpractice can occur in colorectal surgery when the doctor:
- Fails to understand the patient's full medical history
- Fails to successfully complete a surgery
- Fails to recognize a complication from a surgery or otherwise provide excellent follow-up care
- Fails to prevent infection after surgery
Colorectal surgery cases award some of the highest settlement payments because mistakes have serious consequences.
Experienced Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Colorectal surgeons treat a wide variety of digestive and lower abdomen conditions. Treatments for these conditions need to be performed by a skilled surgeon who understands both how to diagnose these conditions and perform complex surgical operations.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury under the care of a colorectal surgeon, call Gilman & Bedigian today to talk to an attorney and begin your case. A skilled medical malpractice attorney can tell you if you are eligible for compensation.
Call (800) 592-6162 today to schedule your free consultation.