Acute Mesenteric Ischemia

What is Acute Mesenteric Ischemia

Acute mesenteric ischemia is a sudden restriction in blood supply to the intestines. This can be a life-threatening condition.

What are the causes?

The condition may develop if something blocks a blood vessel that supports the intestines or causes it to narrow. It may also develop if blood flow to the intestines is reduced. Common causes of this condition include:

  • A blood clot.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Heart disease.
  • Narrowing of the arteries from blood vessel (vascular) disease.
  • Shock.
  • Certain illegal and prescription drugs, such as cocaine or digoxin.

What increases the risk?

This condition is more likely to develop in:

  • People who are over the age of 50 years.
  • People who have a history of coronary or vascular disease.
  • People who have an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
  • People who smoke.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Sudden, severe abdominal pain or bloating.
  • Blood in the stool.
  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea that may be bloody.
  • Vomiting.
  • Fever.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed with:

  • A medical history.
  • A physical exam.
  • A surgical procedure to examine the organs inside the abdomen (exploratory laparotomy).
  • Tests, such as:
    • X-rays.
    • CT scans.
    • Blood tests.
    • Angiogram. This imaging test uses a dye to obtain a picture of blood flow to the intestine.

How is this treated?

This condition is almost always treated with an emergency surgery to correct the problem or with a procedure that uses medicines to break up the clot.


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