Colorectal Surgeon Overview

Colorectal surgeons, also called colon and rectal surgeons or proctologists, are physicians who specialize in the medical and surgical treatment of conditions that affect the lower digestive tract (i.e., the large intestine). Colorectal surgeons undergo extensive education and advanced training. They have comprehensive knowledge about general surgery and in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the colon, rectum, and anus.

Colorectal surgeons specialize in the preoperative, operative, and postoperative care of patients with colorectal disorders. Conditions treated by colon and rectal surgeons include the following:

  • Anal abscess, anal fistula, and anal fissure
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Colorectal cancer (e.g., colon cancer, rectal cancer, anal cancer)
  • Colorectal polyps
  • Diverticular disease (e.g., diverticulitis)
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD; e.g., Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction
  • Rectal prolapse (rectocele, proctocele)

Colorectal surgeons perform a number of screening and diagnostic tests, including ultrasound, colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy, and flexible sigmoidoscopy. They also perform surgical procedures, such as open and laparoscopic colorectal surgery (e.g., colon resection, colectomy, polypectomy) and ostomy (e.g., colostomy, ileostomy).

Colorectal surgeons provide patient care as part of a health care team. They work with nurses and other medical professionals (e.g., genetic counselors), as well as with other physicians (e.g., internists, general practitioners, radiologists, anesthesiologists, pathologists, gastroenterologists). Colorectal surgeons usually work in hospitals or surgical centers.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Nov 2008

Last Modified: 17 Nov 2014