Mesenteric ischemia is caused by an interruption in blood flow to all or part of the small intestine or the right colon. You're losing weight, but not because you want to. Lately you've avoided eating regular meals. That's because a short time after eating a meal, you end up with belly pain that lasts for an hour or two. And as the pain has become worse, the thought of eating is not at all appealing.
It's possible you have a condition called chronic mesenteric ischemia - reduced flow of oxygen-rich blood to your gut.
The cause could be accumulation of fatty deposits in some of your arteries (atherosclerosis), which narrows those arteries and restricts the amount of blood moving through them. When atherosclerosis affects the arteries supplying blood to your intestinal tract, it causes pain and makes it more difficult for your intestines to do their job.
Undetected, chronic mesenteric ischemia could lead to a life-threatening blockage of the blood supply to your gut. Fortunately, once chronic mesenteric ischemia is recognized, it can often be successfully treated.
Signs and symptoms
The most common types of intestinal ischemia are colon ischemia; acute mesenteric artery ischemia and chronic mesenteric artery ischemia, both of which mainly affect the small intestine; and ischemia due to mesenteric venous thrombosis. Signs and symptoms of intestinal ischemia depend on the type.
Colon ischemia, the most common type of intestinal ischemia, may be caused or aggravated by several conditions, including heart failure and low blood pressure. Signs and symptoms of colon ischemia include:
Acute mesenteric artery ischemia results from a sudden blockage of an artery, usually the superior mesenteric artery. Signs and symptoms may include:
Chronic mesenteric artery ischemia, a less common type of intestinal ischemia, is usually caused by a buildup of deposits in the mesenteric arteries, which slows blood flow through the small intestine. Signs and symptoms may include:
Intestinal ischemia due to mesenteric venous thrombosis is caused by a blood clot blocking a vein in the intestines. Signs and symptoms include:
The aorta is the large artery that supplies your body's vessels with oxygen-rich blood pumped by your heart. The portion of the aorta extending below your heart into your abdomen is the abdominal aorta. Three arteries branching off the abdominal aorta supply almost all of the blood to your digestive tract. These arteries are the:
When the flow of blood through these arteries or their adjacent draining veins is altered, whether the change is acute or chronic, intestinal ischemia results.
Like other arteries in the body, any or all of the arteries that serve your digestive tract may be affected by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerotic buildup can progressively reduce blood flow to your small intestine, your large intestine or both.
Sometimes intestinal ischemia occurs because a portion of your intestine becomes trapped due to a hernia or adhesions from a previous abdominal surgery. Other times it occurs because of heart failure or low blood pressure. Most of the time, it is due to a blood clot which forms in your heart and then travels to one of your intestinal arteries. Causes can vary depending on the type of intestinal ischemia you have, but may include:
Acute mesenteric artery ischemia
Ischemia due to mesenteric venous thrombosis