What is Mesenteric Artery Ischemia?
Mesenteric Artery Ischemia is a pathologic condition in which there is a block or narrowing of the arteries that carry blood to the intestines resulting in restricted blood flow to the intestines. The blood is supplied to the intestines by way of three arteries. These arteries are called as Mesenteric Arteries. Narrowing or blockage of these arteries resulting in less blood flow to the intestines is what is called as Mesenteric Artery Ischemia. Due to this condition, the intestines are unable to receive oxygen rich blood which can cause several potentially dangerous conditions. It can even at times be life threatening.
What are the Causes of Mesenteric Artery Ischemia?
Mesenteric Artery Ischemia can develop at any age, although it is mostly seen in the elderly population, people above the age of 65. Some of the causes for Mesenteric Artery Ischemia are:
Cardiovascular Diseases: People who already suffer from cardiovascular diseases are predisposed to Mesenteric Artery Ischemia, as the Mesenteric Arteries come from the aorta which is the heart's main artery. A condition called as Atherosclerosis which is buildup of fats in the arteries is one of the leading causes of heart diseases in people. As a result of this condition, the arteries branching off from the aorta also get affected, especially the Mesenteric Arteries resulting in Mesenteric Artery Ischemia.
Hypercholesterolemia: Elevated cholesterol also is one of the leading causes of Mesenteric Artery Ischemia. Hypercholesterolemia results in development of plaques around the arteries resulting in them getting narrowed or blocked causing Mesenteric Artery Ischemia. Certain risk factors for hypercholesterolemia are smoking, eating foods rich in fats, diabetes and hypertension.
Blood Clots: This is also one of the causes of Mesenteric Artery Ischemia. The risks for developing these clots increase in people who take birth control pills or medications high on estrogen content.
Drug Abuse: Recreational drug abusers including those who take intravenous drugs are also at risk for having Mesenteric Artery Ischemia.
What are the Symptoms of Mesenteric Artery Ischemia?
Some of the symptoms of Mesenteric Artery Ischemia are:
- Abdominal pain with tenderness
- Abdominal bloating
- Persistent diarrhea
- Persistent nausea with vomiting
- Blood in the stools
- Pain in the stomach specially after eating.
How is Mesenteric Artery Ischemia Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose Mesenteric Artery Ischemia, the treating physician will first take a history of the patient inquiring as to the duration of the symptoms, any risk factors for Mesenteric Artery Ischemia like a history of cardiac conditions or previous history of high cholesterol. The physician will also inquire as to whether the patient has a previous history of blood clots or is a recreational drug user or has a smoking history. Once Mesenteric Artery Ischemia is suspected then the physician will order the following tests in order to confirm the diagnosis:
CT/MRI Scans: CT or MRI of the abdominal areas will give a clear picture of whether the mesenteric arteries are blocked and confirm the diagnosis of Mesenteric Artery Ischemia.
Arteriogram: This is a procedure in which x-rays are done using a special dye to look at the blood vessels and arteries to see if they are blocked or not.
How is Mesenteric Artery Ischemia Treated?
If the blockage of the arteries is pretty severe then it requires emergent treatment to avoid tissue necrosis. This is done normally surgically to remove the clot or the block and also remove parts of the intestines which have already necrosed. The patient may be put on blood thinners to prevent further clotting of blood.
Angioplasty: This is also done for severe cases of Mesenteric Artery Ischemia. In this procedure a stent is inserted into the narrowed artery to widen the artery so that blood can flow through the artery easily. A bypass may be done in cases if the artery is completely blocked.
Lifestyle Changes: Surgery is required to treat acute or chronic cases of Mesenteric Artery Ischemia but certain lifestyle changes can do a lot of good in preventing Mesenteric Artery Ischemia to develop. If you eat healthy, eat low fat and low cholesterol diet, exercise diligently, stay away from drugs and smoking it can do wonders and protect you from developing Atherosclerosis or hypercholesterolemia and hence protect you from developing Mesenteric Artery Ischemia.
Medications: There are also certain medications like antibiotics for infections if that is a cause of Mesenteric Artery Ischemia, blood thinners for preventing blood clots, vasodilators to widen the vessels so that blood can easily flow through and prevent Mesenteric Artery Ischemia.