Intestinal Ischemia

What is Intestinal Ischemia?

Intestinal ischemia is a term that is used to describe conditions that affect the blood supply to the intestines. When the blood supply to part of the intestine is blocked or otherwise constricted or limited, it can cause serious and even dangerous conditions. Intestinal ischemia is a condition that can occur in the large intestine (the colon) as well as the small intestine.

There are many potential causes for intestinal ischemia. The arteries to the intestines could become blocked by a blood clot or could narrow due to plaque buildups in the arteries caused by high cholesterol or an arterial disease. A hernia could also be a possible cause of intestinal ischemia and adhesions from past trauma or surgeries to the area could cause scar tissue to develop and block blood flow to the intestines. Low blood pressure can also contribute to intestinal ischemia.

What are the Symptoms of Intestinal Ischemia?

Intestinal ischemia can cause numerous symptoms. Abdominal pain, discomfort, and feelings of abdominal fullness and pressure can all be signs of intestinal ischemia. Experiencing a sudden and urgent need to have a bowel movement on several occasions can also be an indicator of this condition.

A person with intestinal ischemia may also suffer from other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or even bloody stool. Fevers also sometimes occur with intestinal ischemia.

How is Intestinal Ischemia Treated?

When intestinal ischemia is thought to be caused by an inflammatory condition or infection, IV fluids and antibiotics may be effective treatments that can resolve the condition. Changing medications to avoid any prescriptions that constrict the blood vessels and arteries can also help as well as using prescription medications to treat arterial conditions, high cholesterol, and low blood pressure.

However, intestinal ischemia can require surgery to be resolved. In some cases of this condition, a portion of the intestine becomes so badly damaged that it needs to be removed because it is necrotic (dead tissue). Surgery to bypass blocked arteries may also be effective and angioplasty is also an option to use a balloon to inflate or expand narrowed arteries.

Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
September 01, 2017