Information and Questions to ask the Gastroenterologist

Your appointment with the pediatric gastroenterologist is finally here! In many parts of the country these appointments are very hard to come by, because most good GI doctors aren’t accepting new patients or have very long waiting lists. Since this is the case you need to use your appointment time wisely, knowing exactly what you want to get out of it.

While I can’t tell you exactly what you should be asking because I don’t know your particular situation, here are a few guidelines to follow and information to collect before you visit your doctor. These questions are especially helpful if you suspect your child needs to follow a GERD diet, or if you want to describe different behavioral symptoms.

Videotape: First steps, Christmas…and lunch. The first 2 are obvious things to catch on video, however lunch is not usually a video worthy event. If your child has trouble eating, it may be a good idea to record a meal or 2 and show them to the doctor.

If you think your child may have reflux or a swallowing problem, try to catch an episode on camera. Although being able to describe symptoms and behaviors are very helpful, a picture is worth a thousand words and doctors will appreciate being able to see an episode on video.

Growth charts and pertinent medical information: If your child has failure to thrive or is falling off the growth charts, it is important to provide the doctor with copies of his growth chart in order to analyze it and see when the problem began.

A food history: Depending on the situation it is often helpful to provide a diet history. Diet histories should include how long he was on formula or breast milk and what formula it was, how well he tolerated it and any other formulas you tried, when you started baby food, what the progression was and when you moved onto solid food, milk, etc. Try to be as thorough as possible. Although you may not see how this is relevant to your child’s health there may be a connection that can only be seen by a trained eye.

A 3 Day Food Diary: Include what, how much and how long the meal takes. Write down what time the meal was and anything notable that happened during the meal. It is preferable to include two weekdays when the child is on a regular schedule and one weekend day. Also be sure to write down what time he has bowel movements and consistency, as well as any between meal symptoms such as retching, vomiting or even seeming like they feel full or tired.

As with all doctors, write a list of questions and your child’s symptoms and medications. Although you can hope to find answers during the first visit to a gastroenterologist, it is likely he will take all the information you give him and combine it with his own observations to decide if he needs to order any tests before making a definite diagnosis and recommending treatment.

Don’t be afraid to ask about what he thinks the problem could be, but also realize until he has tests results the gastroenterologist will not be sure, so even if he mentions something that sounds horrific try not to jump to conclusions until all the information has been gathered. Although the gastroenterologist may resist giving ideas and jumping to conclusions, he may also be open to explaining what he thinks might be going on as a way to justify tests or a medication trial.