This condition can come on suddenly or develop over time. Find out more about symptoms and treatment for this condition that restricts blood flow to the small intestine.
Mesenteric ischemia (mez-un-TER-ik is-KEE-me-uh) is a condition that happens when narrowed or blocked arteries restrict blood flow to your small intestine. Decreased blood flow can permanently damage the small intestine.
Sudden loss of blood flow to the small intestine is called acute mesenteric ischemia. The acute type is often caused by a blood clot and requires an immediate treatment, such as surgery.
Mesenteric ischemia that develops over time is called chronic mesenteric ischemia. The chronic type is usually caused by a buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries. Chronic mesenteric ischemia is treated with open surgery or a procedure called angioplasty.
Chronic mesenteric ischemia can become acute if it's not treated. It also can lead to severe weight loss and malnutrition.
Symptoms of the acute form of mesenteric ischemia include:
Symptoms of the chronic form of mesenteric ischemia include:
If you have severe, sudden belly pain that persists, seek emergency medical care. If you develop pain after eating, make an appointment with your primary care provider.
Both acute and chronic mesenteric ischemia are caused by a decrease in blood flow to the small intestine. Acute mesenteric ischemia is most commonly caused by a blood clot in the main mesenteric artery. The blood clot often starts in the heart. The chronic form is most commonly caused by a buildup of fatty deposits, called plaque, that narrows the arteries.
The most common risk factors for acute mesenteric ischemia include:
The most common risk factors for chronic mesenteric ischemia include:
If not treated promptly, acute mesenteric ischemia can lead to:
People with chronic mesenteric ischemia can develop:
If you have pain after eating that causes you to limit food and lose weight, your health care provider might suspect that you have chronic mesenteric ischemia. A narrowing of the major arteries to the small intestine can help confirm the diagnosis.
Tests might include:
If a blood clot causes a sudden loss of blood flow to the small intestine, you might require immediate surgery to treat your mesenteric ischemia.
Mesenteric ischemia that develops over time might be treated with angioplasty. Angioplasty is a procedure that uses a balloon to open the narrowed area. A mesh tube called a stent might be placed in the narrowed area.
Mesenteric ischemia also can be treated via open surgery through an incision.