From this general overview of the gastrointestinal tract it can be seen that it is important to several crucial functions in the body and ones with which we are very familiar: eating, drinking and elimination. The two main activites of the gastrointestinal tract - motility and absorption, both necessary for the digestive functions of the tract - are generally insensible. However, pathological conditions of the gastrointestinal tract affect these activities, leading to disorders in the functions of the tract with attendant discomfort, poor nutrition, embarrassment and distress. The nursing role, in addition to supporting the medical and surgical interventions related to the gastrointestinal tract, is to support patients through the consequences of disorders of the tract and for this to be possible, at least a working knowledge of the anatomy, physiology and disorders of the tract is required. The following chapters take you through the tract from the oesophagus to the rectum and include the ancillary organs of digestion (liver, pancreas and gall bladder).

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