Ischemia is a general term that means an inadequate blood supply to an organ or part of the body. The intestine is supplied by various blood vessels and is a highly vascularized organ. The artery called the superior mesenteric artery supplies the majority of the small intestine as well as the first portion of the colon up to the splenic flexure, the bend between the transverse colon and descending colon. When a blood clot in the superior mesenteric artery (SMA) creates a blockage, it stops the delivery of oxygen to the intestine and results in the death of the organ.
Severe abdominal pain is usually the presenting symptom.
Diagnosis is based on history, CT scan, and/or angiography.
When a blockage occurs, the necrotic (dead) intestine must be removed, leaving the individual with a short bowel, which is insufficient to provide the essential nutrients required to sustain life. The patient must then be placed on parenteral nutrition. This may then qualify the patient for an intestinal transplant evaluation.
Other possible causes of ischemia may be due to diseases of the blood vessels or overactive blood clotting disorders (hypercoagulable states).