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Starship Paediatric Gastroenterology and Hepatology

Public Service, Gastroenterology & Hepatology (Liver), Paediatrics


Starship's Gastroenterology/ Hepatology service provides assessment, diagnosis, treatment and long term follow-up for children and adolescents with a wide range of gastrointestinal and liver conditions. The service is part of the New Zealand Liver Transplant Unit, providing a nationally based service for children requiring transplant.

Our team currently is made up of five consultant gastroenterologists & hepatologists, three nurse specialists as well as many other staff including junior doctors, dietitians, pharmacists, psychologists, social workers, cultural support workers and play specialists.

What is Gastroenterology?

Gastroenterology is the branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the stomach, small and large bowel and the pancreas.
Such disorders include:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and IBD unclassified)
  • Intestinal failure & intravenous nutrition (IVN) dependence (sometimes called TPN dependence)
  • Coeliac disease
  • Complicated gastro-oesophageal reflux
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Children with a risk of familial bowel cancer (eg. polyposis syndromes)

What is Hepatology (liver disease)?
Hepatology is the branch of medicine that is concerned with diseases of the liver.
Such disorders include:

  • Liver transplantation
  • Biliary atresia
  • Autoimmune hepatitis and sclerosing cholangitis
  • Intestinal failure-associated liver disease
  • Viral hepatitis (B and C)
  • Fatty liver disease & NASH
  • Alagille syndrome
  • Metabolic liver disease


Referral Expectations

Many common childhood gastrointestinal problems such as uncomplicated gastro-oesophageal reflux, abdominal pain and constipation can be managed well by general paediatricians and GPs without needing input by the Paediatric Gastroenterology & Hepatology Service. Our service primarily manages serious, long-term gastroenterology and hepatology conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease and intestinal failure.

We have updated our referral criteria in 2014 for GPs and paediatricians.


Urgent assessment
If your child has an urgent problem, they will be assessed in the Children's Emergency Department at Starship Hospital. Based on your child’s condition they may be admitted to Starship Hospital for ongoing care or follow-up arranged at the outpatient clinics.

Patients from outside of Auckland will be assessed by their local paediatrician who will discuss with the on call paediatric gastroenterologist & hepatologist at Starship. Appropriate arrangements for transfer to Starship can then be made if required.

Other assessment
If your child has a less urgent problem, a letter of referral will be sent to our department. A senior doctor will look at the letter and a decision will be made based on the information provided in the letter. We are not able to see all children referred to us and many conditions can be looked after by general paediatricians. Possible outcomes from referral include:

  • Outpatient clinic appointment:

An appointment will be offered. For most referrals this will be within a month. All children will be seen within 4 months. If your child's symptoms are getting worse while waiting, please see your General Practitioner or paediatrician again.

  • More investigations are needed:

Sometimes, when we read the referral letter, we feel it would be useful for your child to have more tests, either to decide whether we need to see your child or to provide valuable information for when we see your child. These tests may be blood, urine or faecal (stool) tests or radiological tests (eg. X-rays or ultrasound scans).  In this case we will write to your referring doctor asking them to arrange these tests, then refer your child when the tests have been done.

  • Endoscopy:

For some conditions your child may be booked directly to endoscopy without being seen in clinic first. The reason for this is to decrease delay prior to treatment. Both you and the referring doctor will be sent a letter explaining this. If you have any concerns or questions please contact the team via our secretary (extension 22292 at Starship Hospital) as we can see you in clinic to discuss things more fully, if necessary. Endoscopy waiting times are currently 8-12 weeks.

  • Referral to another service:

Straightforward cases may be referred back to your referring doctor (as explained above) with written advice or we may suggest a more suitable service to see your child.

  • Referral return:

Sometimes your child may already be receiving appropriate management from their general practitioner or general paediatrician and we will not need to see them. In this case, an appointment is not made and we write back to the referrer. Should symptoms change, a re-referral to our service can be made.



Gastroenterology clinics are held several times a week and the Liver Transplant Clinic is held weekly.

All of these clinics are held in the Outpatient Department at Starship Hospital.

A monthly Young Persons Liver Clinic is held jointly with the adult team at the New Zealand Liver Transplant Unit for young people with Liver Disease who are in the process of moving from paediatric care to adult care. 

This clinic takes place at Greenlane Clinical Centre.

Regular clinics are held for young people with inflammatory bowel disease transitioning between the paediatrics and the adult clinics in the three Auckland area DHBs. 

These occur in various locations.

Regular visiting clinics currently also take place in Christchurch (liver patients only) and most major towns in the North Island.

Children living outside Auckland are usually seen in these clinics.

South Island children with gastroenterological problems are seen by the South Island Paediatric Gastroenterology service.

Common Conditions / Procedures / Treatments

  • Gastroscopy/Upper Endoscopy

    This is a camera test which allows the doctor to see inside the oesophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). … More

  • Colonoscopy

    This is a procedure which allows the doctor to see inside your child's large bowel and examine the surface directly and take biopsies (samples of tissue) if needed.  Treatment of conditions can also be undertaken.… More

  • Liver Biopsy

    The best way to establish what type of liver disease is present and the extent of the disease, is a biopsy.  Your child will have a general anaesthetic (be completely asleep) for the procedure.  The biopsy is usually performed by inserting a needle into the liver through the skin and… More

  • Barium Meal

    This is an x-ray test of the small intestine. Your child will have to drink some special liquid (barium).… More

  • MR Abdomen (magnetic resonance scan)

    This is a test where the abdomen is examined using an MR scanner.… More

  • pH/Impedance Study

    A pH/Impedance study is a test designed to see if your child has reflux [the contents of the stomach coming back out the stomach into the oesophagus (food pipe)].… More

  • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio Pancreatography (ERCP)

    This test is relatively rarely performed in children, so the Paediatric gastroenterology team usually seek support from colleagues in Adult gastroenterology who are very experienced in doing this test.… More

  • Oesophageal Manometry

    This is a test to see how effective the oesophagus (swallowing tube) is at moving food and liquid from the mouth to the stomach.… More

  • Intestinal Failure

    Children who have intestinal failure are unable to take food normally either because their bowel is not working properly or because they do not have enough bowel because they have had some removed (short bowel syndrome).… More

  • Biliary Atresia

    Biliary atresia is a disease that affects children in the first weeks of life.… More

  • Autoimmune Hepatitis and Sclerosing Cholangitis

    Autoimmune hepatitis and sclerosing cholangitis are a group of uncommon liver conditions where the body’s own immune system begins to attack the liver and the bile ducts which drain bile into the intestine.… More

  • Hepatitis B and C

    Hepatitis B and C are viruses that cause long-term damage to the liver.… More

  • Liver Transplant

    Although severe liver disease is relatively rare in childhood, a small number of children in New Zealand will need a liver transplant each year.  The Department of Paediatric Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Starship Children’s Hospital is part of the New Zealand Liver Transplant Unit.… More

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease

    Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are a group of conditions that cause long-term inflammation of the intestines (bowel).… More

  • Coeliac Disease

    Coeliac disease is an illness in which there is a permanent intestinal intolerance of gluten.… More

  • Gastrointestinal Bleeding

    The presence of blood in vomit or in the stool (poo) is a common reason for children to be referred to the Paediatric Gastroenterology and Hepatology service.  The blood may be red or sometimes may cause tarry black stools.… More


Support Groups:

Kidshealth.org.nz (Family Information website)     

Crohn's and Colitis New Zealand (www.crohnsandcolitis.org.nz/)     

Kids Foundation (Charity supporting children with liver disease or intestinal failure)

Coeliac Society of New Zealand

Contact Details

Outpatient appointments and surgical booking enquiries: (09) 638 0400 or scheduling@adhb.govt.nz 

2 Park Road
Auckland 1023

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Street Address

2 Park Road
Auckland 1023

Postal Address

Private Bag 92 024
Auckland Mail Centre
Auckland 1142

This page was last updated at 11:59AM on May 23, 2022. This information is reviewed and edited by Starship Paediatric Gastroenterology and Hepatology.