Mesenteric Ischemia

Mesenteric Ischemia Treatment Program

Mesenteric Ischemia have a modern approach to their management through a combination of medication and surgical intervention.

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Mesentery is a fold of membranes tissue that arises from the back wall of the peritoneal cavity and attaches to the intestinal tract. Within it are the arteries and veins that supply the intestine. Mesenteric organs include your stomach, liver, colon, and intestines. Mesenteric ischemia occurs when you have decreased blood flow to these organs as a result of narrowing or blockages. Mesenteric ischemia can be acute or chronic.

Acute mesenteric ischemia occurs by means of a sudden blockage of blood flow to your arteries, which can result in permanent damage to your intestines. This is an emergency situation requiring immediate medical attention.  

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Midland, Alma, Mount Pleasant,
Gladwin, West Branch, Saginaw

Chronic mesenteric ischemia occurs gradually over time from narrowing in one or more of the arteries supplying blood to your intestines (visceral arteries). Patients may develop pain 15 to 60 minutes after eating, which makes it hard to eat regularly, resulting in weight loss. Patients also notice changes in their bowel movement frequency, as well as bloating, nausea, and vomiting. 

Ischemia can also occur when blood can’t leave your intestines. In this instance, a blood clot can develop in a vein that drains deoxygenated blood from your intestines. When a vein is blocked, blood backs up in the intestines, resulting in swelling and bleeding. This is called mesenteric venous thrombosis.

Why do I have Mesenteric Ischemia?

There are several factors that can play a role in development of mesenteric ischemia. Chronic mesenteric ischemia may be caused by atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries over time. Acute mesenteric ischemia may be caused by the following:

  • A blood clot may dislodge from the heart as a result of congestive heart failure, arrhythmias or a heart attack

  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)

  • Impaired blood flow from low blood pressure related to shock, heart failure, or kidney failure

  • High blood pressure

  • Illegal drug use such as cocaine or methamphetamine

  • Blood clotting issues such as sickle cell anemia or anti-phospholipid syndrome

Mesenteric Venous Thrombosis may be caused by:

  • Acute or chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)

  • Abdominal infection

  • Bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or diverticulitis

  • Disorders that make you more prone to blood clotting, such as inherited clotting disorder, or taking medications such as estrogen that can increase clotting risk

  • Trauma to the abdomen

How is it diagnosed?

In order to confirm diagnosis the physician uses a combination of physical examination and testing based on your signs and symptoms. When you are referred to a vascular surgeon, they will go over your history of smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as details about your symptoms. Tests that may be completed include the following:

  • Blood testing:  An increase in white blood cell count may indicate intestinal ischemia.

  • Imaging such as a doppler ultrasound or CT angiogram:  These may identify problems with your arteries or abdominal organs.

  • Diagnostic angiogram:  More invasive, but preferred if diagnosis is very important. A long, thin tube is inserted into your groin or arm, then passed through an artery to your aorta. Dye is injected that can track the blood flow through the arteries and show if there are blockages.

What are my treatment options for Mesenteric Ischemia?

The goal of treatment for mesenteric ischemia is to reopen the artery or vein to restore blood flow so that there is not permanent damage to the intestine. The specifics of your condition will guide the vascular surgeon as to whether treatment is emergent or elective.

Acute mesenteric ischemia treatment (usually emergent):

  • Narcotic pain medication

  • Thrombolytic therapy, which is a clot dissolving drug, is injected into the artery

  • Surgical removal of the clot and sometimes a part of the intestine if it has been damaged by lack of blood flow

Chronic mesenteric ischemia treatment:

  • Pain medication

  • Balloon angioplasty and stent oftentimes performed at the same time as the diagnostic angiogram

  • Bypass surgery: a detour is created around the narrowed or blocked section of the affected artery

Mesenteric venous thrombosis treatment:

  • Blood thinners for 3-6 months, or longer if you are found to have a blood clotting disorder

  • Surgery: if your bowel is showing signs of damage, it may require surgical removal.

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