Mesenteric ischemia occurs when the arteries that supply blood to your intestines (mesenteric arteries) become narrowed or blocked, reducing blood flow. The reduced flow deprives your intestines of the amount of oxygen needed to function properly.
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Since The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is an academic medical center, our patients benefit from innovative research, a depth of medical expertise and the newest technologies and treatment techniques available.
At Ohio State, our vascular surgeons are experienced in diagnosing mesenteric ischemia, and in all forms of treatment for mesenteric ischemia, including minimally invasive angioplasty and stenting, and open surgical bypass for more complex cases.
What Is Mesenteric Ischemia?
Mesenteric ischemia occurs when one or more of your mesenteric arteries become obstructed. As a result of the obstruction, your intestines do not receive an adequate amount of oxygen, and therefore cannot function properly. Over time, tissue in your intestines can die due to inadequate blood flow. Mesenteric ischemia usually affects your small intestine, but can also impact other organs such as your stomach, colon, or liver.
There are two categories of mesenteric ischemia: acute and chronic. Acute mesenteric ischemia is when your symptoms start abruptly and become serious very quickly.
Symptoms of acute mesenteric ischemia include:
- Sudden, severe abdominal pain
Chronic mesenteric Ischemia results from slowly progressive blockages that have been present for a long period of time. Chronic mesenteric ischemia can become acute quickly and without warning.
Symptoms of chronic mesenteric ischemia include:
- Severe abdominal pain after eating (begins 15 to 60 minutes after eating and lasts for 60 to 90 minutes)
- Weight loss
What Causes Mesenteric ischemia?
Acute mesenteric ischemia often occurs when a blood clot (embolus), which usually forms in the heart, travels into one of the mesenteric arteries and blocks the blood flow. People with an irregular heartbeat are at a higher risk for acute mesenteric ischemia.
Chronic mesenteric ischemia is commonly caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). This occurs when a sticky substance, called plaque, builds up in your arteries and causes them to narrow and stiffen.
Other risk factors that contribute to mesenteric ischemia include:
- Aortic dissection (a tear in the aorta's inner layer)
- Blood vessel disorders (such as fibromuscular dysplasia and arteritis)
- Coagulation disorders
- Congestive heart failure
- Low blood pressure
- Obstruction of the veins in the bowel