Vascular Associates of Northern Virginia

Timely and considerate care of the arterial and venous systems.

Mesenteric Vascular Disease

Anatomy and Definition

Mesenteric vascular disease is also referred to as Mesenteric Ischemia.  Ischemia simply means an inadequate blood supply to part of the body or to an organ.

The mesenteric arteries are the ones supplying the large and small intestines with oxygenated blood.  If one, or more, of the mesenteric arteries becomes narrowed or blocked then the intestines become ischemic.  It typically affects the small intestines, but other organs could be involved as well.

Mesenteric ischemia is serious, because it might cause tissue death in the intestines.


Mesenteric vascular disease could be either chronic or acute.

Atherosclerosis causes the build up of plaque in the artery which narrows it and possibly blocks it.  This process is typically associated with chronic mesenteric ischemia.

If a blood clot travels, usually from the heart, and becomes lodged in one of the mesenteric arteries it will lead to a sudden blockage of the artery.  This is called an embolus and is typically associated with an acute mesenteric ischemia.

There are also other medical conditions that might cause mesenteric ischemia, such as:

  • Vein blockages of the bowel veins.
  • Heart failure.
  • Blood clotting disorders.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Dissection of the aortic wall.
  • Other blood vessel disorders such as fibromuscular dysplasia.

Risk Factors

  • It usually happens in people over the age of 60.
  • High levels of cholesterol.
  • Smoking.


  • In chronic mesenteric ischemia, someone would experience severe abdominal pain about 15 minutes to an hour after eating.  The pain might last anywhere between an hour to an hour and a half and then goes away.  The pain comes back every time the person eats.  Other symptoms that might be associated with chronic mesenteric ischemia:
    • Weight loss from avoiding eating to prevent the abdominal pain.
    • Nausea and vomiting.
    • Diarrhea.
    • Constipation.
    • Flatulence.
  • With acute mesenteric ischemia, the severe abdominal pain comes on suddenly and could be associated with nausea or vomiting.

Due to the nature of mesenteric vascular disease, it is important to seek medical attention, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Note: This blog post is intended for information only.  It is not meant to replace a professional medical opinion.  If you are suspecting any medical problems, please seek professional medical attention.  If you are having an emergency, please call 911.

Vascular Associates of Northern Virginia, P.C.
Vascular Laboratory

Our Vascular Surgeons:
Robert S. Podolsky, M.D.
Avisesh Sahgal, M.


This entry was posted on November 24, 2015 by in Vascular Information and tagged , .
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