Intestinal Ischemia

Intestinal Ischemia


Intestinal ischemia describes a series of conditions caused due to inadequate blood supply to the intestines. Usually, this is caused by a blockage in the artery. It may affect your small intestine, large intestine or both.

Signs and symptoms

Intestinal ischemia presents as abdominal cramps, abdominal pain that gets progressively worse over weeks, diarrhoea, bloating, nausea and unexplained weight-loss.

Causes and risk factors

Intestinal ischemia is caused when a major artery supplying blood to the intestines develops an obstruction. Over time this obstruction could develop into a blockage. This obstruction could be due to a blood clot, cholesterol deposits etc. Pre-existing conditions like atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure could increase your risk of intestinal ischemia. Consumption of cocaine and methamphetamines are also proven to increase your risk of ischemia.


Complications of intestinal ischemia include gangrene, perforation of the intestinal walls, scar formation and in very extreme cases, death.


Intestinal ischemia is diagnosed with the aid of patient medical history, a physical exam, blood tests, X-rays, CT scans, an endoscopy and possibly an angiograph to test for arterial blockages. In some cases, exploratory surgery may also be needed to find and collect damaged tissue for further pathological studies.

Treatment and Surgical Interventions

Depending on where the ischemia has occurred in the intestines, different treatment approaches are adopted. Colon ischemia usually heals on its own, but in severe cases, the damaged tissue is surgically removed. Acute mesenteric artery ischemia usually requires by-pass surgery or an angioplasty to restore blood flow to the affected areas.


The risk of intestinal ischemia can be reduced by incorporating some lifestyle changes including - quitting smoking, exercising regularly, following a healthy diet, reducing stress and controlling diabetes (if applicable).


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