Intestinal ischemia (low blood flow)

Abdomen | Emergency Medicine | Intestinal ischemia (low blood flow) (Disease)


Intestinal ischemia results from decreased blood supply to the intestines. The arteries typically become blocked with atherosclerosis, but can also be obstructed from a blood clot that travels to the artery from another location (an embolus). Intestinal ischemia can also occur form low blood pressure, from a twisting of the bowel (volvulus), or from an internal hernia.

Causes and Risk factors

Intestinal ischemia occurs when the blood flow through the major arteries that supply blood to your intestines is slowed or stopped.

Intestinal ischemia has many potential causes, including a blockage in an artery caused by a blood clot, or a narrowing of an artery due to buildup of deposits, such as cholesterol. Whatever the cause, diminished blood flow within your digestive tract leaves cells with insufficient oxygen. Under these conditions, cells become weak and die. If damage is severe enough, infection and gangrene may result. If untreated, intestinal ischemia can be fatal.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Laboratory tests may show a high white blood cell count and increased acid in the bloodstream. Other tests done to establish the diagnosis inlcude abdominal CT scan or an angiogram.

Treatment usually requires surgery, and involves removal of the damaged portion of the intestine. In some cases, a colostomy or ileostomy is needed. The blockage of arteries to the intestine is corrected, if possible. ...

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