POTSDAM -- Xiaosong Song, a gastroenterologist who practices with St. Lawrence Health System’s Canton-Potsdam Hospital, was recently recognized by the American Gastroenterology Association’s Bridges to Excellence Program for the quality of his work in diagnosing and treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Inflammatory bowel disease is a group of autoimmune diseases involving chronic inflammation of all or part of the digestive tract that, if left untreated, can lead to irreversible damage to the mucosa (lining) of the small and large intestine, according to Song.
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the most common forms of the disease. Both have symptoms ranging from diarrhea, to chronic pain, to bleeding. The diseases can also involve fatigue and unintended weight loss. Inflammatory bowel diseases can be debilitating and can lead to life-threatening complications, such as perforation, obstruction, fistula, abscess, and the development of colorectal cancer.
“Medical science doesn’t yet know for sure what causes IBD,” said Song. “Doctors used to believe it was caused by stress, but we now know it is most likely a malfunction of the immune system, where the body’s own defenses see the mucosa as ‘non-self’ and attack it,” he said.
“Your risks for inflammatory bowel disease are higher if you are of white or Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, if you smoke, if you have over-used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), or if you have a first-degree relative with the disease,” said Song.
“Diagnosis is usually by colonoscopy, combined with imaging and laboratory studies,” he said. “Specific assessments such as thiopurine methyltransferase are performed as well. This is a test for enzyme activity and it’s one of the assessments that are the mark of a quality IBD program. The circulating biologic level and its antibodies can also be tested and therapy can be adjusted accordingly,” said Song.
Gastroenterologists participating in the IBD quality program must demonstrate that they have successfully treated at least thirty patients within the previous year, and must meet reporting requirements for quality measures, such as whether or not patients were offered corticosteroid-sparing therapies, tobacco screening, and testing for the hepatitis B virus before beginning common therapies for IBD, among other interventions proven to meet the latest evidence-based standards of care in the testing and treatment of IBD.