Mesenteric Vascular Disease

The mesenteric vessels are the blood vessels that supply the stomach, liver and the small and large intestine. There are usually three mesenteric vessels - the celiac trunk, the superior mesenteric artery and the inferior mesenteric artery. Severe narrowing of these blood vessels can result in symptoms, due to lack of blood supply. The narrowing is usually due to a disease process called atherosclerosis, which causes plaques of cholesterol to form in the walls of arteries.

Risk factors for atherosclerosis include:

  • Smoking
  • Age
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes

People with mesenteric vascular disease can have the following symptoms:

  • severe abdominal pain on eating and a fear of eating
  • weight loss
  • diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, constipation

Sometimes mesenteric vascular disease can occur acutely with sudden severe abdominal pain, due to a clot forming in the mesenteric blood vessels, or due to a clot travelling from the heart and lodging in one of the mesenteric blood vessels.

People with mesenteric vascular disease may need investigation with a number of tests including:

  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasounds
  • CT scans
  • Catheter angiograms

People with mesenteric vascular disease may need an operation to treat the narrowing. Sometimes the narrowing can be treated with balloons (angioplasty) and stents. Sometimes the narrowing needs an operation to remove the plaque (endarterectomy) or to bypass the narrowing. The bypass operation can be performed with vein or with a plastic tube, depending on the circumstances. Your surgeon will advise you with treatment is best for your condition. People with acute mesenteric vascular disease usually need an urgent operation to correct the problem.