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Mesenteric Ischemia

The mesenteric arteries supply blood to the large and small intestines. Mesenteric ischemia occurs when the blood cannot flow through one or more of these arteries as well as it should due to narrowing or blockage, and the intestines don’t receive the necessary oxygen to perform normally.

Mesenteric ischemia can be either chronic or acute. Chronic means that someone has had the condition and symptoms over a relatively long period of time. Acute means that the symptoms start abruptly and become very serious in a short period of time. Chronic mesenteric ischemia can progress without warning to acute mesenteric ischemia, sometimes very quickly.


Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries and slows the amount of blood flowing through the arteries. Mesenteric ischemia is frequently caused by atherosclerosis.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of getting mesenteric ischemia include:

  • Age 60 or older
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Low blood pressure
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Aortic dissection
  • Coagulation disorders


Signs and symptoms of mesenteric ischemia may include:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Flatulence
  • Constipation


To determine if someone has mesenteric ischemia, a health care provider will ask questions about general health, medical history and symptoms. Then they will perform a physical exam, specifically listening for sounds of blow flow in the carotid arteries. Blood pressure will be taken. If your health care provider suspects mesenteric ischemia, further diagnostic testing will be recommended to evaluate the bowel and circulation.

Treatments Offered at the Center for Vascular and Endovascular Surgery

The following procedures are offered for the treatment of mesenteric ischemia depending on a patient’s diagnosis:

  • Mesenteric Angioplasty/Stenting. During an angioplasty procedure, the vascular surgeon inflates a small balloon inside a narrowed mesenteric artery. After widening the artery with angioplasty, the surgeon may insert a stent, which is a tiny metallic mesh tube that can support the artery’s walls to keep the vessel wide open.
  • Mesenteric Bypass. During bypass surgery, the surgeon creates a detour around a narrowed or blocked section of the artery. To create this bypass, a vascular surgeon can use a vein or sometimes a tube made from man-made materials can be used as an alternative. The surgeon attaches the bypass above and below the blocked area, producing a new path for blood to flow to the intestines.


You can reduce some of your risk factors for developing atherosclerosis by following these recommendations:

  • Eat a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Don't smoke. If you smoke, quit.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Begin a safe exercise program with the advice of your doctor.
  • Seek treatment for high blood pressure, syphilis and other infections.

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Center for Vascular and Endovascular Surgery
St. Elizabeth's Medical Center
736 Cambridge Street
Brighton, MA 02135

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