Mesenteric disease occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the intestines become narrower. Also known as mesenteric ischemia or mesenteric vascular disease, the condition may come on suddenly or develop over time. Here’s everything you need to know about this condition.


Mesenteric disease is a result of atherosclerosis, or the buildup of fats and other substances that form into plaque. This plaque adheres to the walls of your arteries, thereby reducing their internal circumference. Atherosclerosis worsens slowly over time. 

There are several risk factors for atherosclerosis, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • High triglycerides
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Inflammation from other conditions, such as arthritis, lupus, or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Having a family history of early heart disease
  • Tobacco use
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Mesenteric disease is fairly uncommon overall, but is seen more often in seniors, especially those with cardiovascular conditions or blood clotting disorders. People with certain vein conditions, such as peripheral artery disease and coronary artery disease, may also be more at risk.


There are two types of mesenteric disease: acute and chronic. Acute mesenteric disease happens when there’s a sudden loss of blood flow to the intestines caused by a blood clot. This condition is serious and requires immediate surgery. It’s often characterized by fever, nausea and vomiting, abrupt and extreme abdominal pain, and an urgent need to have a bowel movement.

Chronic mesenteric disease may develop slowly over time as blood flow to the intestines decreases. Its symptoms typically include abdominal pain that begins about a half hour after eating, worsens over an hour, and goes away within three hours. The chronic condition can also result in unexplained weight loss. Left unaddressed, it could progress into acute mesenteric disease or cause malnutrition.


If mesenteric disease is suspected, there are several methods providers can use to diagnose it. Ultrasound or direct imaging of the artery may be used to determine the exact location and extent of the blood flow blockage. Some common diagnostic imaging approaches include:

  • Mesenteric ultrasound
  • CTA (computerized tomographic angiogram) scan
  • Mesenteric angiogram


The treatment used for mesenteric disease depends on each patient’s unique condition. Immediate surgery is needed to treat acute mesenteric ischemia. In some cases, chronic mild mesenteric disease may be managed successfully through observation and lifestyle changes such as routine exercise, smoking cessation, and management of contributing factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol.

When treatment is required, a minimally invasive endovascular procedure known as angioplasty and stenting may be used. In this technique, surgeons use stents and balloons to open the arteries, thereby improving blood flow to the intestines. Typically, a catheter with a small balloon is inserted through an artery in the groin area, then guided to the location where the artery has become too narrow. Once the catheter reaches the blocked portion, the balloon is inflated to widen the area. The stent, which features a wire-mesh tube, can be used to reinforce the artery, if needed.

As leaders in treating venous conditions, Vascular Surgical Associates offers cutting-edge treatments to facilitate the best possible outcomes for mesenteric disease. To schedule a consultation, call (770) 423-0595 or contact us online.