Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Gastrointestinal System

UM LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DEPARTMENT Faculty of Medicine and Surgery

DESCRIPTION This unit focuses on the anatomy and physiology of the gastrointestinal and hepato-biliary systems, and the anatomical and physiological basis of common gastrointestinal and hepatic disorders. It will also introduce principles of drug bioavailability, metabolism, and elimination by the liver.

Apart from lectures, there are also Critical Thinking Sessions. These are based on carefully selected clinical cases that are intended to stimulate the student to think and discuss critically the presented problems and to formulate basic scientific and clinical concepts as well as ethical, behavioural and professional principles.

The study-unit will also include Seminars wherein clinicians together with experts in various disciplines will discuss common clinical conditions and supplement the clinical information presented in the Critical Thinking Sessions.

The common features of these learning sessions is that they involve active participation, are student centered and conducive to independent learning as a prelude to continuing life-long education.

Study-unit Aims:

This study-unit provides a foundation for the clinical evaluation and management of patients with gastrointestinal disease. It provides students in the biomedical sciences with an integrated approach to the study of the gastrointestinal system including the gross and microscopic anatomy, how the gastrointestinal system functions in health and disease, and an introduction to laboratory tests, imaging and therapeutics relevant to the gastrointestinal system.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Correlate the structure and function of the gastrointestinal system;
- Describe the anatomical and physiological basis of common clinical conditions affected the gastrointestinal system;
- Describe the clinical laboratory assessment of liver function and hepatic failure;
- Describe the hepatic portal circulation;
- Explain the causes and consequences of portal venous obstruction and the effects of anaesthesia on the hepatic circulation;
- Explain the pathways for the metabolism of haemoglobin and bilirubin and identify possible causes and types of jaundice and the physiological consequences of hepatic disease;
- Describe the storage and synthetic functions of the liver and gall bladder.

2. Skills
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Name the gross and microscopic features, blood supply and innervation of the components of the gastro-intestinal, hepato-biliary and pancreatic duct systems and their clinical correlates;
- Outline the surface projections and methods of clinical examination of the gastro-intestinal tract;
- Identify on radiological, CT and MRI images the components of the gastro-intestinal, hepato-biliary and pancreatic duct systems;
- Outline the development of the GI tract, pancreas and hepato-biliary system;
- Explain the composition, volumes and functions of secretions from the alimentary tract including saliva, gastric fluid, bile and intestinal fluid;
- Outline the mechanisms of digestion and absorption of lipid, protein, and carbohydrate, and the absorption of vitamins, water and electrolytes;
- Outline the autonomic and hormonal control of gastric and intestinal secretion, motility and emptying, the physiology of swallowing and vomiting, and the factors preventing gastro-oesophageal reflux;
- Identify the mechanisms of drug metabolism and excretion by the liver;
- Interpret simple clinical cases involving the gastrointestinal system (including diarrhoea, vomiting, cholecystitis, gall bladder disease, panceatitis, carcinoma of the pancreas, malabsorption) in terms of disordered anatomy and physiology and the basic drugs used to treat these conditions.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Text for Physiology

- Textbook of Medical Physiology’ Guyton & Hall; Saunders. 11th Edition, 2006. ISBN: 978-0-7216-0240-0

Main Texts for Anatomy

- Clinical Anatomy by Regions, Richard. S. Snell, 8th Edition 2007, Lipincott. ISBN-10: 0-7817-6404-1. ISBN-13: 978-0-7817-6404-9
- Clinical Anatomy by Systems, Richard. S. Snell, 2006, Lipincott. ISBN-10: 0-7817-9164-2. ISBN-13: 978-0-7817-9164-9
- Gray’s Dissection guide for Human Anatomy, by Morton, Peterson and Albertine 2nd Edition, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0443069512. ISBN-10: 0443069514

Main Text for Pathology

- General and Systematic Pathology, by JCE Underwood. 4th Edition, Churchill Livingstone. ISBN 0443073341
- Robbins Basic Pathology by V Kumar, A K Abbas, N Fausto, R Mitchell, 8th Edition , Saunders. ISBN 1416029737

Main Texts for Pharmacology

- Clinical Pharmacology: With STUDENTCONSULT Access (Paperback). P. N. Bennett, Morris J. Brown. 10th Edition, 2007 Churchill Livingstone. ISBN-10: 0443102449. ISBN-13: 978-0443102448
- Pharmacology: With STUDENT CONSULT Online Access (Paperback). Humphrey P. Rang, Maureen M. Dale, James M. Ritter BM, Rod Flower. 6th Edition, 2007 Churchill Livingstone. ISBN-10: 0443069115. ISBN-13: 978-0443069116

Supplementary Readings

- Imaging Atlas of Human Anatomy by Weir, Jamie and Abrahams, Peter. 3rd Edition, 2003. ISBN-10: 0-7234-3211-2. ISBN-13: 978-0-7234-3211-1
- Wheater's functional Histology. A text and colour atlas. By Young, Lowe, Stevens, Heath and Deakin. 5th Edition, 2006. Churchill Livingstone. ISBN-13: 978-0-443-06850-8. ISBN-10: 0-443-06850-X
- Langman's Medical Embryology. By T.W. Sadler. 10th Edition. ISBN-10: 0781794854. ISBN-13: 9780781794855

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Tutorial

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Sept. Asst Session Weighting
MCQ and Written Examination (2 Hours) SEM1 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Tiffany Buhagiar
Sarah Cuschieri
Kristian Micallef
Janet Mifsud
Nikolai Pace
Mauro Pessia
Cristoforo Pomara
Ian Said Huntingford


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2023/4. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.