arterial diseases

ischemia of the intestine

what is bowel ischemia?

Mesenteric artery ischemia is a condition that restricts blood flow to the intestines. There are three main arteries that supply blood to the small and large intestines. These are known as the mesenteric arteries. Narrowing or blocking the arteries reduces the amount of blood that goes to the digestive tract.

When your intestines don’t get enough oxygen-rich blood, it can lead to serious health problems, including cell death and permanent damage. It can even be life-threatening.

mesenteric artery

What are the symptoms?

Mesenteric artery ischemia has two types: acute and chronic. The acute form of the disease appears suddenly. Acute ischemia has severe symptoms. The chronic type of MAI has a more gradual onset. In most people, blood clots cause acute ischemia. Atherosclerosis is usually the cause of chronic ischemia.

Symptoms include:

  • abdominal pain

  • bloating or feeling full

  • diarrhoea

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • cod

You may also have a sudden urge for frequent bowel movements in an acute case of MAI. Blood in the stool is a common symptom.

Stomach pain after eating is also a symptom of chronic ischemia. You may develop a fear of eating due to the anticipation of pain. This can cause involuntary weight loss.

    What are the reasons?

    People of any age can develop mesenteric artery ischemia (MAI), but it is most common in adults over the age of 60.

    I can occur in cardiovascular disease. The mesenteric arteries that supply blood to your intestines branch off from the aorta, the main artery of the heart. The accumulation of fatty deposits, called atherosclerosis, can lead to heart disease. This type of heart disease usually occurs in combination with changes in the aorta and the vessels that branch off from the aorta.

    High cholesterol contributes to ischemia because it causes plaque coating your arteries. This build-up of plaque causes narrowing of the vessels and reduces blood flow to the intestines. You are more likely to develop atherosclerosis if you smoke, have diabetes, have high blood pressure, or have high cholesterol.

    Blood clots can block mesenteric arteries and reduce blood flow to the digestive tract. A blood clot is a group of blood cells that clump together. Blood clots can also increase the risk of stroke if they reach the brain. Birth control pills and other drugs containing estrogen can increase the risk of developing blood clots.

    Cocaine and methamphetamine use can also lead to ischemia in some people. They lead to narrowing of the blood vessels.

    Blood vessel surgery is another possible cause of ischemia. Surgery can create scars that narrow the arteries.


    Different imaging methods are used such as:

    • CT scan: x-rays that create cross-sectional images of body structures and organs

    • ultrasound: sonogram that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of bodily organs

    • MRI: magnetic and radio waves that examine the body organs

    • MRA: magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) is an MRI study of blood vessels

    • arteriogram: a procedure that uses X-rays and a special dye (contrast) to look inside blood vessels.


    Acute blockages in the intestine should be immediately under treatment to prevent tissue death. Usually, in the case of an acute attack of ischemia, the operation removes clots and parts of the intestine that have already died. Your doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medication to prevent future blood clots.

    Angioplasty is another treatment option for narrowed arteries. A mesh tube called a stent is inserted into the narrowed artery to keep it open. In cases of complete blockage, sometimes the blocked artery is bypassed completely.

    Surgery can treat chronic mesenteric artery ischemia if necessary. Surgery is not always necessary if intestinal ischemia progresses slowly. Lifestyle adjustments can help reduce atherosclerosis naturally. Lifestyle changes can include following a low-fat, low-sodium diet to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Daily exercise can also lower cholesterol, regulate blood pressure and improve heart health.

    dr. Shah