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Interventional gastroenterology: An overview and why training and experience are key

September 27, 2017

Willis Parsons, M.D., Medical Director of the NCH Gastroenterology Center, Board-Certified Gastroenterologist

Interventional gastroenterology is a subspecialty within gastroenterology which started about 20 years ago as a means of training physicians in therapeutic ERCP (endoscopic retrograde pancreatography). ERCP is an endoscopic procedure utilized in the management of many diseases of the bile ducts and pancreas. Interventionalists typically complete a three-year fellowship in general gastroenterology, followed by an additional one to two years training in an advanced endoscopy training program. These programs significantly increased in number and breadth of training in parallel with the introduction and dissemination of newer technologies, especially EUS with FNA (endoscopic ultrasound with fine needle aspiration). EUS has revolutionized the management of many diseases, including esophageal and rectal cancers.

Interventional gastroenterologists are experienced in:

  • Diagnosing digestive diseases
  • Removing bile duct stones
  • Relieving malignant biliary tract obstructions
  • Staging esophageal cancer
  • Staging rectal cancer
  • Obtaining biopsies of pancreatic tumors and cysts
  • Ablating Barrett’s esophagus
  • Removing large colonic and duodenal polyps
  • Assessing submucosal lesions

My experience as an interventional gastroenterologist

After completing my residency and three-year GI fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, I pursued a fourth year in an advanced endoscopy program at Maine Medical Center in Portland. After serving as the Director of Therapeutic Endoscopy at Northwestern Memorial Hospital for six years, I went into private practice and then joined NCH in 2004. Currently I am the Medical Director of the GI Center at NCH and direct the Center for Advanced Therapeutic Endoscopy in Busse Suite 4500, along with Kathy Quinlan, R.N., M.B.A. I started the NCH Reflux Center 18 months ago along with Gary Chmielewski, M.D., Thoracic Surgeon and Associate Professor, Rush University Medical Center. Our novel multidisciplinary clinic caters to patients with acid reflux and swallowing disorders. Additionally, I work closely with Malcolm Bilimoria, M.D., Chief of Pancreas and Hepatobiliary Surgery, Illinois Center for Pancreatic and Hepatobiliary Diseases, on many patients with malignancies of the pancreas and bile ducts.

My interests and expertise include evaluation of pancreatic and esophageal disease, ERCP, EUS with FNA, transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF) for acid reflux, capsule and deep enteroscopy to investigate GI tract bleeding, removal of large colonic and duodenal polyps, ablation of Barrett’s esophagus, and stenting of the esophagus, duodenum and colon.

More information and consultations

For information on the NCH Reflux Center, call 1-847-618-GERD. Learn more about thoracic and digestive disorders we treat at NCH. To refer a patient, call 847-618-3060.