At the Digestive Health Institute, innovation is our hallmark. We have pioneered endoscopic procedures that are setting the standard of GI care: organ-sparing GI surgery, the accurate diagnosis of liver diseases and more. Our physicians are the first to use artificial intelligence (AI) to dramatically increase the detection and removal of cancerous and precancerous polyps during colonoscopies. With clinical research and technological invention powered by UC Irvine, our patients have access to groundbreaking therapies unavailable elsewhere.
Our patients also benefit from the compassionate care provided by our highly skilled multidisciplinary teams. Our teams include gastroenterologists, surgeons, medical oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, dietitians, nurses, social workers and case managers. They work in concert to design a treatment plan tailored for each patient, one that optimizes care and promotes the best possible outcomes.
Our bariatric surgeons are national leaders in performing the safest and most effective weight-loss procedures. They team with dieticians, counselors and other healthcare professionals to help obese patients achieve their weight-loss goals and improve their health.
We also have Orange County’s only multidisciplinary program to treat ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. And our hepatology specialists are leaders in the treatment of hepatitis.
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Our digestive health specialists deliver leading-edge treatment for a broad range of gastrointestinal (GI) conditions, including disorders of the esophagus, stomach, gall bladder, liver, pancreas, colon and rectum.
They are leaders in the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), obesity and inflammatory bowel disease, offering minimally invasive approaches that mean less pain and faster recovery for our patients.
Our specialists, led by institute director Dr. Kenneth Chang, also have pioneered a treatment for patients whose reflux disease has developed into Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which precancerous cells arise in the esophageal lining. Using thin, flexible tubes called endoscopes, they deliver radiofrequency waves that eliminate abnormal cells with heat energy, allowing healthy cells to replace them.
Our physicians use minimally invasive endoscopic techniques for a wide range of other gastrointestinal procedures. Our integrated endoscopic suite
- Capsule endoscopy
- Endoscopic ultrasound
- Video endoscopy
- Esophageal manometry
- Radiofrequency ablation
- 48-hour wireless pH testing
- Laser photodynamic therapy
We have been recognized as a leader in gastroenterology and GI surgery by U.S. News & World Report. Many of our physicians have been named Best Doctors in America®, an honor recognizing the top 5% of doctors in the nation. They also have been honored as Physicians of Excellence by the Orange County Medical Association.
As physicians at Orange County’s only academic medical center, our doctors are actively involved in clinical research trials. This means our patients have access to leading-edge therapies and technologies well before they are available elsewhere. It also means that as teachers of Orange County's future physicians, they must be at the leading edge of medical science and innovation.
At the Digestive Health Institute, we stop at nothing to give you the best possible care.
The Digestive Health Institute leads the way in novel techniques to detect and treat diseases of the GI tract, especially cancer.
A central focus is performing minimally invasive treatments whenever possible. In fact, DHI has the only endowed chair in the nation devoted to treating cancer endoscopically.
Here are just a few of the ground-breaking innovations developed at DHI:
- AI colonoscopy
DHI gastroenterologist Dr. William Karnes is co-inventor of the AI Polyp Detector, which gives real-time analysis during colonoscopies that dramatically increases a physician's ability to detect and remove polyps — with more than 96% accuracy. "It's a game-changer," he says of the AI software incorporated in the camera device he uses to inspect the colon and small intestine during a colonoscopy. "It takes about 10 milliseconds to process an image, which is four times faster than it needs to be run in real time. The doctor gets this feedback while watching the screen during a colonoscopy. It can spot a flat polyp that otherwise may be missed."
- Incision-less esophageal surgery
The digestive disease team mastered a challenging procedure called endoscopic submucosal dissection (ESD), which allows physicians to remove some digestive tract tumors through the mouth. This incision-less procedure saved esophageal cancer patient Patrick Aurignac from a life-altering surgery. "We are getting so good at treating Barrett’s esophagus and early esophageal cancer that when someone comes to me and it’s diagnosed too late or is too deep into the wall, it really breaks my heart,” says Dr. Jason Samarasena.
- EUS-guided portal pressure device
DHI has also devised a revolutionary method to accurately measure blood pressure in the liver — the single best way to assess liver health. As cases of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease rise due to America’s obesity epidemic, this diagnostic tool could help millions. “If you tell me what your liver pressure is, I can tell you how likely you are to die of liver disease, to have liver cancer, to need a transplant in the next five years,” says Chang, who worked with Cook Medical to develop the new technique called endoscopic ultrasound-guided portal pressure gradient (EUS-guided PPG).
DHI also hosts the nation's largest symposium on gastrointestinal disorders and treatments, which draws thousands of physicians and healthcare professionals each year. Along with research presentations and discussions of the latest techniques in the diagnosis and treatment of GI conditions, it offers hands-on surgical and diagnostic training.