|Classification and external resources|
CT showing ischemic small bowel due to thrombosis of the superior mesenteric vein. The small bowels are dilated and the bowel wall is thickened.
- This article concerns ischemia of the small bowel. See ischemic colitis for ischemia of the large bowel
Mesenteric ischemia (or Mesenteric ischaemia - British English) is a medical condition in which inflammation and injury of the small intestine result from inadequate blood supply. Causes of the reduced blood flow can include changes in the systemic circulation (e.g. low blood pressure) or local factors such as constriction of blood vessels or a blood clot. It is more common in the elderly.
Signs and symptoms 
- A hyper active stage occurs first, in which the primary symptoms are severe abdominal pain and the passage of bloody stools. Many patients get better and do not progress beyond this phase.
- A paralytic phase can follow if ischemia continues; in this phase, the abdominal pain becomes more widespread, the belly becomes more tender to the touch, and bowel motility decreases, resulting in abdominal bloating, no further bloody stools, and absent bowel sounds on exam.
- Finally, a shock phase can develop as fluids start to leak through the damaged colon lining. This can result in shock and metabolic acidosis with dehydration, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and confusion. Patients who progress to this phase are often critically ill and require intensive care.
Clinical findings 
Case series report prevalence of clinical findings and provide the best available, yet biased, estimate of the sensitivity of clinical findings. In a series of 58 patients with mesenteric ischemia due to mixed causes:
- abdominal pain was present in 95% (median of 24 hours duration). The other three patients presented with shock and metabolic acidosis.
- nausea in 44%
- vomiting in 35%
- diarrhea in 35%
- heart rate > 100 in 33%
- 'blood per rectum' in 16% (not stated if this number also included occult blood - presumably not)
- constipation 7%
Diagnostic heuristics 
In the absence of adequate quantitative studies to guide diagnosis, various heuristics help guide diagnosis:
- Mesenteric ischemia "should be suspected when individuals, especially those at high risk for acute mesenteric ischemia, develop severe and persisting abdominal pain that is disproportionate to their abdominal findings"
- Regarding mesenteric arterial thrombosis or embolism: "...early symptoms are present and are relative mild in 50% of cases for three to four days before medical attention is sought".
- Regarding mesenteric arterial thrombosis or embolism: "Any patient with an arrhythmia such as atrial fibrillation who complains of abdominal pain is highly suspected of having embolization to the superior mesenteric artery until proved otherwise".
- Regarding nonocclusive intestinal ischemia: "Any patient who takes digitalis and diuretics and who complains of abdominal pain must be considered to have nonocclusive ischemia until proved otherwise".
It is difficult to diagnose mesenteric ischemia early. One must also differentiate ischemic colitis, which often resolves on its own, from the more immediately life-threatening condition of acute mesenteric ischemia of the small bowel.
Blood tests 
In a series of 58 patients with mesenteric ischemia due to mixed causes:
- White blood cell count >10.5 in 98% (probably an overestimate as only tested in 81% of patients)
- Lactic acid elevated 91% (probably an overestimate as only tested in 57% of patients)
Devices for diagnosis during endoscopy 
A number of devices have been used to assess the sufficiency of oxygen delivery to the colon. The earliest devices were based on tonometry, and required time to equilibrate and estimate the pHi, roughly an estimate of local CO2 levels. The first device approved by the U.S. FDA (in 2004) used visible light spectroscopy to analyze capillary oxygen levels. Use during Aortic Aneurysm repair detected when colon oxygen levels fell below sustainable levels, allowing real-time repair. In several studies, specificity has been 83% for chronic mesenteric ischemia and 90% or higher for acute colonic ischemia, with a sensitivity of 71%-92%. This device must be placed using endoscopy, however.,,
Plain x-ray 
Computed tomography 
- prevalence of mesenteric ischemia 23%
- sensitivity 64%
- specificity 92%
- positive predictive value (at prevalence of 23%) 79%
- negative predictive value (at prevalence of 23%) 95%
- prevalence of mesenteric ischemia 62%
- sensitivity 83%
- specificity 93%
- positive predictive value (at prevalence of 62%) 93%
- negative predictive value (at prevalence of 62%) 61%
Findings on CT scan include:
- Mesenteric edema
- Bowel dilatation
- Bowel wall thickening
- Intramural gas
- Mesenteric stranding
Mesenteric angiography 
As the etiology of the ischemia can be due to embolic or thrombotic occlusion of the mesenteric vessels or nonocclusive ichemia, the best way to differentiate between the etiologies is through the use of mesenteric angiography. Though it has serious risks, angiography provides the possibility of direct infusion of vasodilators in the setting of nonocclusive ischemia 
"Surgical revascularisation remains the treatment of choice for mesenteric ischaemia, but thrombolytic medical treatment and vascular interventional radiological techniques have a growing role".
- venous thrombosis - 32% mortality
- arterial embolism - 54% mortality
- arterial thrombosis - 77% mortality
- non-occlusive ischemia - 73% mortality
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