According to the National Institute of Health, more than 70 million Americans are affected by digestive diseases such as reflux, liver and kidney diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers, and various cancers of the digestive tract and abdomen. In fact, one-third of all outpatient visits has something to do with the gut. Armed with less invasive medicine and the experience needed to perform advanced diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, the St. Joseph's Healthcare System (SJHS) gastroenterology (GI) team works to meet patients' expectations of getting back to life quicker with fewer complications.
"We see nearly 5,000 patients every year with an ever-increasing number of referrals to our expert team from surrounding community hospitals, primary care physicians and gastroenterologists," says Walid Baddoura, MD, Program Director, Gastroenterology Fellowship, SJRMC (resident of Pompton Plains). "Our primary focus is the well-being of our patients in a most expeditious and cost-effective manner. We take pride in our commitment to education, having trained a large number of gastroenterologists since the mid-1970's."
"The field of diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopy has evolved significantly over the last couple of decades," says Dr. Baddoura. "With the available expertise and state-of-the-art technology, we are able to visualize the entire gastrointestinal tract, identify the problem, and take care of it. In most instances, these advanced procedures are done on an outpatient basis with a relatively quick recovery time and return to normal activities."
One of the unique diagnostic tools available at St. Joseph's is high-resolution esophageal manometry with Impedance. High-resolution manometry measures the pressure in the esophagus, which tells the physician if the sphincters are working appropriately and information about the condition of the contractions of the esophagus. The Impedance shows functionality of the esophagus; if the swallowed material has traveled through the esophagus into the stomach. "This 'live recording' of the esophagus in action helps us figure out why the patient is having trouble swallowing or feels like food is 'sticking' to the back of the mouth," says Joseph Shami, MD, Chief, GI, St. Joseph's (resident of Totowa). "Using this less invasive technology, we can look closer at chronic GERD [gastro esophageal reflux disorder] and other problems involving the esophagus and the opening to the stomach."
St. Joseph's is currently the only area hospital with this technology. It also has a number of other unique capabilities, including treatment of bariatric surgery complications.
"New flexible surgical instruments and state-of-the-art techniques enable us to address complicated bariatric (weight loss) procedures, intestinal tumors and other GI disorders faster and more efficiently to ensure the best outcomes for our patients," says Sohail N. Shaikh, MD, an Interventional Gastroenterologist (resident of Livingston), an expert in advanced endoscopic procedures including endoscopic suturing, to repair fistulas and gastric defects, and endoscopic ultrasound and ERCP to address difficult biliary and pancreatic pathology using cutting edge noninvasive technology. "Many of the patients who come to St. Joseph's are in pain and have severe complications from previous surgeries or as a result of their disease. Our goal is to improve their quality of life, help them regain their health and return to their family and friends as soon as possible."
Treating some of the hardest-to-reach organs in the body, like the pancreas and small intestines, Matthew A. Grossman, MD, an advanced therapeutic endoscopist at SJHS (resident of Saddle River), uses endoscopic ultrasound to address issues with the pancreas and liver. "The new technology helps us biopsy cysts and tumors, as well as provide treatment right at the location of the disease," says Dr. Grossman. "Without this technology and expertise, patients would have to endure long and painful procedures." The GI team is also able to use new balloon procedures to look at the lower intestines, providing targeted treatments and resulting in better surgical outcomes, and capsule cameras, which can be swallowed by the patient, giving doctors an inside look at polyps and other signs of disease.
Another team member, Farshad Mansouri, MD, colon and rectal surgeon (resident of Midland Park), has extensive training in both colorectal surgery and laparoscopic procedures. "For many patients with colon cancer, diverticulitis or inflammatory bowel disease, a laparoscopic colon resection is a better option, enabling them to go home sooner and back to their lives faster," says Dr. Mansouri. "Because laparoscopic colon resection requires special training, only about 10-15% of patients in the United States are fortunate enough to undergo their colon resection laparoscopically."
Several major publications have published the safety and effectiveness of laparoscopic colon resections for malignancy. In fact, some studies even suggest an improved overall survival rate when comparing laparoscopic to traditional open colon resection.
"Using laparoscopic techniques we are able to treat cancers of the liver, pancreas and bile ducts more efficiently with less pain," says Andrew de la Torre, MD, Director, Liver, Pancreas and Biliary Surgery (resident of Maplewood), who has joined the GI team as a liver, pancreas and biliary cancer specialist and surgeon. "Also, we are going to be doing clinical trials using immunotherapy, anti-stromal agents and the latest in GI techniques to fight cancers of the liver and pancreas."
"The expertise of the GI surgery team at St. Joseph's, along with our excellent anesthesia and nursing services, makes our hospital one of the leading facilities in the region for the surgical treatment of gastroenterology issues," says Mark Connolly, MD, Chairman, Surgery, SJRMC (resident of Jersey City). "Each patient can be confident that their digestive problem, whether it is bariatric, cancer or other GI issue, will be addressed by our St. Joseph's experts in the most advanced, least invasive way available, and with the patient's quality of life at heart."