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The gastrointestinal (GI) tract serves to transport food and absorb nutrients to sustain life. The main functions of the GI tract include the digestion of food, absorption of nutrients, and elimination of waste. Pathologic conditions affecting the GI system result from the impairment of these functions. Malignancies in the GI tract, specifically the colon, are common conditions that affect this system. The most common signs and symptoms associated with GI disease include the following: (1) chest and/or abdominal pain, (2) disturbances in food ingestion (possibly due to vomiting, nausea, difficulty or painful swallowing, or anorexia),1 (3) alterations in bowel movements (constipation or diarrhea), and (4) bleeding in the GI tract. The anatomy of the GI system is shown in Figure 6–1. Table 6–1 summarizes the selected GI pathologies discussed in this chapter. Table 6–2 identifies organs associated with abdominal quadrants.


Gastrointestinal system. (From Ash R, Morton DA, Scott SA. The Big Picture: Histology. McGraw-Hill; 2013.)

TABLE 6–1Selected gastrointestinal pathologies.
TABLE 6–2Organs associated with abdominal quadrants.


The physical therapist’s examination includes taking the individual’s history, conducting a standardized system review, and performing selected tests and measures to identify potential and existing movement-related disorders. During the history-gathering phase, the physical therapist may seek and receive information on GI symptoms and complaints that may warrant referral for additional medical evaluation. The physical therapist may decide to use one, more than ...

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