Mesenteric artery disease occurs when there is a narrowing or blockage of one or more of the 3 major arteries that supply blood to the small and large intestines. These are called mesenteric arteries. The mesenteric arteries run directly from the aorta, the main artery from the heart.

There are 2 types of mesenteric artery disease:

Chronic (long-term) – Mesenteric artery disease that results from fatty deposits, called plaque, building up in the arteries, causing them to become narrow and blocked (a process called atherosclerosis).

Acute (sudden) – Mesenteric artery disease that results from blood clots or debris that travel through the bloodstream (emboli) and lodge in the mesenteric arteries.

Like every other part of the body, blood brings oxygen to the intestines. When the oxygen supply is slowed or blocked, symptoms may occur.

Mesenteric artery disease is a type of peripheral vascular disease, which also includes peripheral artery disease, carotid artery disease, renal artery disease, aortic disease, venous problems, and some other conditions, such as vasculitis.

Mesenteric Artery Disease Causes

The buildup of plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis) is common in people who are smokers, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Emboli (blood clots or debris that travel through the bloodstream) are more common in people who have certain heart disorders which make them likely to form blood clots, such as mitral stenosis and atrial fibrillation.

Mesenteric Artery Disease Symptoms

Symptoms caused by chronic mesenteric artery disease:

  • Abdominal pain after eating
  • Diarrhea

Symptoms caused by acute mesenteric artery disease:

  • Diarrhea
  • Sudden severe abdominal pain
  • Vomiting

Mesenteric Artery Disease Diagnosis

Tests for mesenteric artery disease help confirm a diagnosis or rule it out. At Wake Forest Baptist, our physicians use state-of-the-art tools and techniques to detect and diagnose conditions.

For chronic mesenteric artery disease, your doctor may recommend:

For acute mesenteric artery disease, your physician may recommend:

Mesenteric Artery Disease Treatment

We believe it is just as important to manage your disease as it is to treat it. When mesenteric artery disease is severe, there are no medical, or non-surgical, options available. But when it’s mild or asymptomatic, there is a role for medical management. Your doctor may prescribe one or more of the following:

  • Controlling your cholesterol
  • Lifestyle change, such as quitting smoking or losing weight
  • Regular follow-up care to monitor your condition

In more severe cases, we may recommend surgery to open your arteries and restore blood flow. Surgical options include:

Only you and your doctor can decide which mesenteric artery disease treatment is right for you. All of our patients receive pre-operative counseling to help them understand the risks and benefits of procedures.

Heart and Vascular Center

Wake Forest Baptist’s Heart and Vascular Center combines cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery and vascular surgery to provide a multidisciplinary team approach to patient- and family-centered care. At the Heart and Vascular Center, our philosophy is clear: patients come first. We offer the latest in technology, devices and medication combined with personalized care, to offer life-changing vascular and heart disease treatments.