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the field in medicine devoted to the structure and function of the human digestive system under normal and pathological conditions, in which the causes and mechanisms of the development of various diseases of the digestive organs are studied and new methods for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of these diseases are devised.
Diseases of the digestive organs have been known since remote antiquity, but information about the structure of the digestive system was primitive and inaccurate. The teachings of the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (470-377 B.C.) on curative diet were valuable for the development of knowledge in gastroenterology. The introduction in the 18th century of research in pathological anatomy by the Italian scientist G. B. Morgagni had great importance in the development of gastroenterology. Gastroenterology was finally formed into an independent science in the first half of the 19th century when, as a result of the studies in pathological anatomy by the Austrian scientist K. von Rokitansky, the French scientist J. Cruveilhier, and others, there appeared a systematic description of many diseases of the digestive organs (ulcers and cancer of the stomach, cirrhosis of the liver, etc.). The French clinicians R. Laennec, G. Dieulafoy, V. C. Hanot, and others made an important contribution to the development of gastroenterology. With the introduction into clinical practice of the thick probe in 1867 by the German clinician A. Kussmaul and of the fine probe in 1911 by the German physician M. Einhorn and V. Lyon (USA), the possibilities of studying the secretory and acid-producing functions of the stomach and also of the pathological condition of the bile ducts greatly increased. The development of roentgenologic methods of investigation made it possible to ascertain pathological changes in all of the digestive organs.
The instrumental methods of examination used in contemporary clinical practice (gastroscopy, esophagoscopy, laparoscopy, rectoromanoscopy, radioisotope indication [methods], and radiotelemetry) have considerably expanded diagnostic possibilities in gastroenterology. Developments in chemistry have facilitated the detailed study of the enzymatic functions of the digestive system.
As a result of the work of I. P. Pavlov and his school, the contemporary physiology of digestion came into being; it has exerted a decisive influence on the development of gastroenterology throughout the world. S. P. Botkin’s theory of nervism (mid-19th century), the method of anamnesis devised by G. A. Zakhar’in, and the method of palpation (feeling) of the organs of the abdominal cavity devised by A. P. Obraztsov (beginning of 20th century) and perfected by his school exerted a great influence on the development of gastroenterology.
The major thrust of gastroenterology in the USSR is social and preventive. Health-center care for patients with gastroenterological diseases, the creation of specialized wards for these patients and wards for abdominal surgery, and the care provided by health resorts and sanatoriums guarantee success in the battle against diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. The study of gastroenterological problems is based on research in physiology, morphology, microbiology, chemistry, radiology, and clinical disciplines (therapeutics, surgery, and pediatrics). Included among Soviet scientists that have made great contributions to the development of gastroenterology are M. P. Konchalovskii, N. D. Strazhesko, R. A. Luria, M. I. Pevzner, A. L. Miasnikov, E. M. Tareev, V. Kh. Vasilenko, N. I. Leporskii, N. V. Konovalov, M. M. Gubergrits, I. P. Razenkov, M. N. Shaternikov, S. A. Kholdin, S. P. Fedorov, S. A. Reinberg, Iu. N. Sokolov, and B. V. Petrovskii.
Organizations that have been created in this field include the All-Union and All-Russian Problems Commission on the Physiology and Pathology of Digestion, the All-Union Scientific Society of Gastroenterologists, and scientific research institutes in Moscow, Dnepropetrovsk, and Dushanbe. The problems and the results of research in gastroenterology are published in journals, including Terapevticheskii arkhiv (since 1923), Klinicheskaia meditsina (since 1920), Sovetskaia meditsina (since 1937), Vrachebnoe delo (since 1918), and Khirurgiia (since 1931). Abroad, research in gastroenterology is published in journals including Archives français des maladies de l’appareil digestif (Paris, 1907—), Medizinische Klinik (Berlin, 1904—), Gut (London, 1960—), American Journal of Gastroenterology (New York, 1934—), American Journal of Proctology (New York, 1950—), Acta gastro-enterologica belgica (Brussels, 1933—), Digestion: International Journal of Gastroenterology (Basel-New York, 1895—).
The Association of National European and Mediterranean Societies of Gastro-Enterology and the World Association of Gastroenterologists coordinate research in gastroenterology.
K. I. SHIROKOVA