News Release: Emory Healthcare

Sep. 30,  2010

Expert Care and Top Technology Offered to Patients with Digestive Disorders

News Article ImageLocated at Emory University Hospital Midtown, the Southeastern Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorders treats patients with upper, middle and lower gastroenterology disorders, as well as functional bowel disorders.

There’s good news for patients with certain digestive disorders, many of which are often difficult to diagnosis and treat. Three centers with a wealth of expertise, offering an array of high-tech testing, are available to help these patients better treat and manage their conditions.

The Southeastern Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorders recently opened its doors at Emory University Hospital Midtown. The center treats patients with upper, middle and lower gastroenterology disorders, as well as functional bowel disorders.

“We like to think of this new comprehensive center as a place for patients to come not just for diagnostics, but for therapeutics -- in a pleasant, comfortable environment with state-of-the-art care,” says Kavita Kongara, MD, medical director of the new center and private practice gastroenterologist with Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates. “Patients can expect personalized care in our office, with all testing, diagnostics and treatment in one location.”

Kongara sees patients with various digestive and motility disorders including: gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), dysphagia (ineffective swallowing), achalasia (difficulty in swallowing both liquids and solids), slow gastric emptying or gastroparesis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and chronic constipation.

Before coming to Atlanta, Kongara served as director of both the Women’s Support Center for Gastrointestinal Disorders and the Gastrointestinal Diagnostic Motility Center at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, NY. She also was associate chief and director of clinical operations for the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition at Winthrop University Hospital.

Across the city on Emory’s Clifton Road campus is the Emory Gastroesophageal Treatment Center and the Esophageal Function Lab. Here, patients can be seen for a variety of swallowing and motility disorders – from the straight-forward cases to the most complex cases. The center has been operational since 1992.

“Our goal is to provide the most comprehensive, gastroesophageal functional health evaluation by utilizing all our resources -- the endoscopy lab, radiology, nuclear medicine and our physiology labs for our investigations,” says Edward Lin, DO, associate professor of surgery, Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Emory Gastroesophageal Treatment Center. “I tell my patients that you only have one stomach and one esophagus, so you want to be as sure as you can of your diagnosis before treating.”

Lin goes on to say, “Once a variety of testing is complete, then we can determine the best approach for the patient – medication, surgery or a combination of both.”

A skilled surgeon, Lin’s expertise lies in minimally invasive surgery for GERD, various esophageal complications and repairs, bariatrics and other general and gastrointestinal surgery. Lin also serves as the director of the Emory Endosurgery Unit for Minimally Invasive Surgery.

For patients with gastroparesis -- a disorder in which the stomach takes too long to empty -- Lin collaborates with Jennifer Christie, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Digestive Diseases and director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Center at Emory. Lin will often operate on these patients and then he and Christie will work together to place an electrode in the patient’s stomach to stimulate proper emptying.

“Patients with gastroparesis or other motility disorders often suffer for long periods of time before finding proper diagnosis and treatment options,” says Christie. “We work with a team of health care providers to tailor treatment plans specific to each patient’s needs.”

Before coming to Atlanta, Christie served as chief of the Gastroenterology Clinics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. She was also the Director of Women’s Gastrointestinal Health & Motility Center while at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Christie’s expertise includes women’s gastrointestinal health issues, functional bowel disorders such as IBS and gastrointestinal motility disorders, as well as GERD.

She’s been seeing patients at the Gastrointestinal Motility Center since 2007, while expanding the breadth of services offered. Additionally, the Gastrointestinal Motility Center at Emory also evaluates and treats patients with defecation disorders such as fecal incontinence and constipation.

Collaboration among physicians in this specialty area is key for the betterment of patient care. Because there are so many patients who need treatment for their digestive disorders, working together is beneficial to the patients and the experts alike.

High-tech testing equipment, such as high-resolution impedance-pH testing for acidic and non-acidic reflux, is being offered at the Southeastern Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorders, with Emory’s Gastroesophageal Treatment Center adding the same equipment this Fall. Kongara also offers the SmartPill, a diagnostic tool in pill form that’s swallowed and collects data throughout the digestive tract, identifying gastrointestinal motility disorders such as delayed gastric emptying and constipation. Christie will begin offering the SmartPill soon.

Digestive disorders can be hereditary or have no known cause. They can affect infants, children and adults. Some people are born with digestive complications, while others acquire them during their lifetime. But when there is a problem with digestion, medical care and an individualized treatment plan are often needed to help patients get back on track and have a better quality of life.

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The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

Learn more about Emory’s health sciences:
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Web: http://emoryhealthsciences.org

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