Types of Mesenteric Ischemia

Mesenteric ischemia occurs when one or more of the arteries that supply blood to the intestines become narrow or blocked. NYU Langone cardiologists are experienced at managing the acute and chronic types of this condition.

Acute Mesenteric Ischemia

In the acute form of mesenteric ischemia, symptoms begin abruptly and worsen very quickly. People with acute mesenteric ischemia typically experience sudden, severe stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting. 

Acute mesenteric ischemia can sometimes be caused by a blood clot that originates in the heart. It forms as a result of certain types of heart rhythm disorders or because of atherosclerosis—a buildup of a waxy substance in the arteries called plaque.

Other cardiovascular conditions that may lead to acute mesenteric ischemia include coronary artery disease, aortoiliac occlusive disease, deep vein thrombosis, or an inherited predisposition to developing blood clots. People who have had a recent heart attack also have a higher risk for developing it. 

Some medications have been linked to acute mesenteric ischemia. These include vasopressors, which raise blood pressure, and ergotamines, which are prescribed for migraines. 

Acute mesenteric ischemia is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. If you have symptoms of the condition, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Chronic Mesenteric Ischemia

Chronic mesenteric ischemia typically develops slowly, as plaque builds up in the mesenteric arteries, which supply blood to the intestines. People with chronic mesenteric ischemia may experience weight loss, abdominal pain after eating, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting. Some people with abdominal pain develop a fear of eating and become malnourished. 

People with high blood pressure, diabetes, and unhealthy levels of cholesterol are at risk for experiencing plaque buildup and atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries, as well as chronic mesenteric ischemia. Left untreated, the condition can progress to acute mesenteric ischemia.

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