Although relatively rare, mesenteric ischemia – when blood flow to the small or large intestine is restricted – is a medical emergency. It is also sometimes referred to as a bowel infarction. Should it occur, immediate medical attention is necessary to prevent sepsis, organ failure, or even death.
Where It Occurs & Why
The small intestine is comprised of three parts that lie just beyond the stomach: the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. Together, this part of your digestive tract absorbs the bulk of nutrients from the food you eat, as well as excess fluid, for your body to use. Whatever remains continues into the large intestine (colon, rectum, and anus), where it is transformed into stool and transported out of the body as waste.
Blood flow to the small and large intestine is typically obstructed due to a blood clot or buildup of plaque in the arteries.
- When a blood clot travels from the heart to the main mesenteric artery, it can result in sudden, severe symptoms. This is called acute mesenteric ischemia and it requires immediate surgery.
- The gradual buildup of plaque inside the arteries that lead to the small intestine is called chronic mesenteric ischemia, which can be treated with angioplasty.
In some cases, cocaine and other drugs may constrict the blood vessel passageway, decreasing or blocking blood flow to the intestines.
Signs & Symptoms of Bowel Infarction
It can be difficult to identify mesenteric ischemia (bowel infarction) based on signs or symptoms alone, as many of those may indicate many other possible illnesses and conditions.
Sudden onset of symptoms may indicate acute mesenteric ischemia, which is a medical emergency. With chronic mesenteric ischemia, symptoms can range from mild to severe and tend to recur. Common signs and symptoms of bowel infarction include:
- Abdominal pain that begins about 15-30 minutes after eating
- Urgent need to defecate
- Malnutrition, unintentional weight loss, aversion to food
- Fever, nausea, and vomiting
If you have peripheral arterial disease (PAD) or history of any type of atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque in the arteries), you may be more likely to develop chronic mesenteric ischemia. Symptoms of chronic ischemia may worsen over time if the passageway within arteries continues to narrow.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Diagnosis often requires an angiography to examine how well blood flows in the arteries leading to your intestines. This typically includes use of computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Depending on the severity of your condition, your treatment may include medications like blood thinners and lifestyle changes (diet, exercise). The gold standard to restore proper blood flow in patients with chronic mesenteric ischemia is minimally invasive angioplasty and stenting.
At Florida Endovascular and Interventional, we have decades of experience diagnosing and treating chronic mesenteric ischemia, or bowel infarction. Most patients with the chronic form of this condition can be diagnosed and treated as outpatients in our office-based endovascular suites.
Bowel Infarction / Mesenteric Ischemia Treatment in Miami Lakes, Plantation, Coconut Creek & Aventura, FL
To find out more about our services – especially the diagnosis and treatment of mesenteric ischemia, or bowel infarction – call Florida Endovascular and Interventional in South Florida at (786) 534-2555. Alternatively, you can request your appointment now. We have offices in Miami Lakes, Plantation, Coconut Creek, and Aventura.