What is a Pediatric Gastroenterologist?

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 13, 2021

Pediatric gastroenterologists are doctors who specialize in children’s liver, digestional, and nutritional issues. They treat children from birth through age 18.  

If your child is having digestion, liver, or nutrition problems, make an appointment with their pediatrician. The majority of children who see a pediatric gastroenterologist are referred by their pediatrician.

What Does a Pediatric Gastroenterologist do?

Pediatric gastroenterologists are qualified to treat:

Other conditions that they can diagnose and treat are:

  • Bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract
  • Abdominal pain
  • Ongoing diarrhea or constipation
  • Vomiting

Pediatric gastroenterologists treat children with nutrition-related conditions as well. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Malnutrition
  • Extreme weight loss or gain

They may also be able to take out objects that are blocking your child’s central airways.

Typical procedures a pediatric gastroenterologist perform include: 

Education and Training

Pediatric gastroenterologists are medical doctors with a specialization in children’s medicine. To become a pediatric gastroenterologist, they must: 

  • Complete four years of medical school or osteopathic medical school
  • Complete a three-year pediatric residency
  • Complete an additional three-year training period within children’s gastroenterology, hepatology, and liver medicine
  • Be certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and the American Board of Pediatrics Sub-board in Pediatric Gastroenterology.

Reasons to See A Pediatric Gastroenterologist

While your pediatrician will most likely refer you to a pediatric gastroenterologist, symptoms that may mean your child should see one include:

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Ongoing diarrhea 
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Bloating and gas
  • Not getting enough iron
  • Thin bones
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Changes in tooth enamel
  • Chest and stomach pain
  • Heartburn
  • Issues with swallowing
  • Breathing problems
  • Irritability
  • Issues with growth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fevers and exhaustion
  • Diarrhea with blood and mucus 
  • If your child has swallowed a foreign object

What to Expect with a Pediatric Gastroenterologist

Because they deal with so many conditions, there are many ways they might diagnose and treat your child.

Most likely, your child would first get an upper endoscopy or colonoscopy. This is when the doctor puts a camera into their esophagus or rectum, or they take a pill that’s actually a mini camera. This helps the doctor see what’s going on inside your child. The pediatric gastroenterologist will then come up with a treatment plan or procedure.

Expect the offices of pediatric gastroenterologists to be kid-friendly. There will probably be bright decor, toys, and other fun objects for your child to play with.

It can be scary and confusing for a child to have gastrointestinal issues. But because pediatric gastroenterologists specialize in children’s medicine, they’ll help your child feel comfortable.  

Show Sources


American Academy of Pediatrics: “Pediatric Specialists.”

Council of Pediatric Subspecialties: “Gastroenterology.”

Mayo Clinic: “Pediatric Gastroenterology and Hepatology.”

North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition: “Digestive Topics A-Z.”

NYU Langone Health: “Pediatric Gastroenterology Program.”

University of Rochester Medical Center Rochester: “Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info