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Mesenteric Artery Ischemia

A painful condition of the small intestine

WHAT IS MESENTERIC ARTERY ISCHEMIA?

Mesenteric ischemia affects the blood vessels within the small intestine. It obstructs the arteries and disturbs the flow of blood, causing mild to severe abdominal pain. 

It is a fairly rare condition, accounting for about .09% to .2% of all hospital admissions in the U.S. Because its symptoms can be similar to other conditions, it is important to seek a proper diagnosis from a vascular specialist.

SYMPTOMS OF MESENTERIC ARTERY ISCHEMIA

Abdominal pain is the most common symptom of mesenteric artery ischemia. Although you could have periodic abdominal pain over the course of many months, sudden-onset abdominal pain often sends patients in search of emergency care.

Typical symptoms of mesenteric artery ischemia include:

  • Sudden, intense abdominal pain
  • Periodic abdominal pain that comes and goes
  • Abdominal pain during and after eating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Bloody stool
  • Abdominal tenderness and swelling
  • Weight loss 
  • Fear of eating
Mesenteric Artery Ischemia

Image courtesy of vascular.org

HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?

There is a gold standard of diagnosis for this condition: mesenteric angiography. However, your doctor may also use other tests, including CT angiography and lab tests.

A physical exam, including an abdominal exam, is very important in diagnosing mesenteric artery ischemia. Work with your doctor at Maryland Vascular Specialists to determine which set of diagnostic tests will be best in your situation.

HOW IS IT TREATED?

In an emergency, surgery may be needed. Surgery can remove a blood flow obstruction, change the shape and length of your bowel, or address the effects of a rupture.

The following treatments may be used in addition to, or instead of, surgery depending on your exact medical situation.

  • Periods of bowel rest
  • Fluid therapy
  • Nutritional support
  • Broad-spectrum antibiotics
  • Surgical laparotomy with embolectomy
  • Surgical revascularization or stenting
  • Medications, including anticoagulants

Certain medications are known to make this condition worse. Your doctor will examine the medications you are taking and may add, adjust, or remove over-the-counter and prescription medications to treat your condition.

WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS?

Certain genetic and lifestyle factors make you more prone to having mesenteric artery ischemia. These include:

  • Being over age 60
  • Being female
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • History of cardiovascular disease

Women over age 60 are more at risk of this condition, although it does occur in men and younger people. Someone is particularly at risk if they have a history of cardiovascular problems or a family history of similar conditions.

EXPECTED OUTCOME

The key ingredient to a positive outcome for mesenteric artery ischemia is prompt treatment. Early detection is extremely important. With fast, expert intervention, you can cope with the effects of this condition and help your body heal.

If you have experienced any of the symptoms listed above, seek help from a doctor as soon as possible. To learn more about mesenteric artery ischemia, schedule a consultation with Maryland Vascular Specialists.

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