What is Mesenteric Ischemia?
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.
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