The visceral arteries supply blood to the intestines, spleen, and liver. Build up of plaque can harden and narrow these arteries, restricting or blocking blood flow (atherosclerosis). This can lead to lack of oxygen in body tissues that causes pain. Over time, affected organs may cease to function properly or may fail.
Individuals with atherosclerotic mesenteric disease suffer from narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the intestines. Atherosclerotic mesenteric disease is more common among patients who are smokers and/or who have high blood pressure or blood cholesterol. Diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity are also risk factors. Patients with mesenteric artery disease can suffer severe abdominal pain when they eat, and can experience weight loss.
Symptoms associated with mesenteric artery disease caused by atherosclerosis:
- Abdominal pain after eating
- Weight loss
Blood tests for atherosclerotic mesenteric disease may show a higher than normal white blood cell count and changes in the blood acid level. There may also be bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.
Diagnostic tests include:
- Doppler Ultrasound to examine blood vessels and the intestine
- Mesenteric Angiogram is a test that involves injecting a special dye into your bloodstream to highlight the arteries of the intestine
- Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)
- CT Scan
If mesenteric artery disease is very advanced, or if blockages develop, arterial bypass surgery may be necessary to restore blood flow. During bypass surgery, doctors place a graft to divert blood supply around the blockage, to bypass the diseased section of the artery. Another surgical option is to remove the blockage and reconnect the arteries to the aorta. Minimally invasive procedures can also be employed. These include balloon angioplasty and stenting to enlarge the narrowed passageway through the affected arteries and improve blood supply to the intestines. Lifestyle changes to stop smoking, control weight, blood sugar and cholesterol may also be recommended.