A GI Revelation


I have officially completed my first month of medical school AND only have 7 weeks remaining before I’m officially done with Anatomy! Is this real life?!
I mentioned in my last blog that we’d be moving on to the abdominal region and pelvis in this next three week interval. I was a little apprehensive about starting this particular section for several reasons. Besides the obvious challenge inherent in the sheer number of organs in the abdomen, I am not exactly a big fan of GI stuff. For those who know me well, you will laugh at the idea of me discussing stomach contents and gastrointestinal distress. Prior to exploring the subject in anatomy, I was pretty set against considering GI as a speciality. I am definitely an emetaphobic (huge fear of vomit) and I really don’t think talking about the regularity of bowel movements would make for a fascinating day. Needless to say, I was less than enthusiastic about spending four hours a day in lab up to my elbows in intestines and bile. Now that we’ve completed the abdomen, in five days no less, I can honestly say my opinion has changed dramatically. I am fascinated by the GI tract! Granted, I still don’t want to talk about poop but I have learned to marvel at the complexity and organization of the system. The interaction between organs and the structural genius of the system is truly remarkable. Yesterday in lab we performed a full autopsy of the abdominal cavity by removing the entire tract from the esophagus down to the rectum. We laid out the entire contents of the cavity on a tray and reconstructed what we had seen in situ. Outside of the body, the relationships between the organs, vessels, etc.is more challenging to discern but I literally got to hold the length of my cadaver’s colon in my hands.  It was definitely a worthwhile trade off. 

Today we’ve been inundated by clinical correlates and have learned all about the ways in which various systems manifest disease through the GI system.  We learned about the silent and deadly manifestation of pancreatic cancer, retrocecal appendices, the Whipple operation and GI bleeds. While we haven’t been exposed to a lot of physiology yet, we are able to understand a lot of the symptoms and conditions of the pathologies presented because of how much anatomy we learn through SBMP. It’s really exciting to be able to follow a GI surgeon as he talks about his typical surgical day. If I’ve learned anything from the anatomy of the stomach, it’s a method to prevent alcoholism. Show someone a picture of a patient with caput medusa and they’ll never have a drink again. Essentially, alcoholics develop portal hypertension-the vein draining into the liver is compromised so blood needs to flow into other vessels to avoid the constriction. The result? A distended stomach replete with large blue vessels and herniated material in the button belly. Imagine an “outie” belly button….times 300. It’s appalling. 

We have a three day weekend coming up, I can’t stop smiling, and I am looking forward to a weekend filled with studying and some relaxation. Our next section, the pelvis, is reportedly the most difficult section of anatomy so I can only imagine what my stress level will be next week. For now, I’m going to try and master what we’ve learned this week and enjoy the small break we’re being given. Promise I’ll post again this weekend!


What I learned while trying to understand splanchnic nerves, peptic ulcers can come from several sources: alcoholism, H. Pylori, and NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatories). Takeaway: follow those rules on the back of the Advil bottle and don’t let people convince you that stress has any affect on the presence of ulcers!  It’s a big ole wives tale. 


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