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Bowel ischemia and infarction 


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Bowel ischemia and infarction means damage to the intestine and its death due to decreased blood flow to that area. It has several other connotations like bowel ischemia, intestinal necrosis, dead bowel, etc.


Symptoms of bowl ischemia and infarction

  • The vital symptom of bowel ischemia and infarction is abdominal pain that could initiate as mild and then become severe.
  • Frequent emptying of bowel, diarrhea which might have blood
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Fever

Bowl ischemia and infarction can be acute and if not managed early becomes chronic. In the latter, stomach pain lingers and becomes worse. People tend to develop phobia for eating and experience unusual weight loss.


Causes of bowel ischemia and infarction

  • Blood clot and blockage: Blood flow to the intestinal artery can get blocked due to fat deposits in the arterial wall and also due to occurrence of blood clots (which travel to the intestine from the heart). People who have arrythimias, had heart attack and atherosclerosis are at risk
  • Venous thrombosis- veins carrying blood away from intestine might also get blocked. Risk factors include blood clotting disorders, cancer, tumor in intestines, and liver disease
  • Knotting of intestine due to hernia
  • Formation of scar tissue and adhesions due a previous surgery
  • Very low blood pressure associated with narrow intestine, surgery, etc.
  • Side effects of medicines (hormone pills, heart medications) and drugs (cocaine) that lead to shrinkage of blood vessels


Complication of bowel ischemia and infarction

Bowel ischemia and infarction complications require immediate medical attention. In many cases, it leads to peritonitis (inflammation of the peritoneum). Septic shock is another major complication of bowel infarction.

Lack of proper treatment and medical care in chronic cases might prove fatal as well.


When to see a doctor

Since abdominal pain is the hallmark sign of bowel ischemia, you must see a doctor if you experience it along with other unusual symptoms.

You should ask your doctor about your risk of developing bowel ischemia if you are suffering any health disorders that might probably lead to bowel complications in the future.


Diagnosis of bowel ischemia and infarction

Your doctor will physically examine the symptoms. Make sure you let your doctor know if you are suffering from health ailment or taking any medicines.

You have to undergo several imaging tests which will help to evaluate your intestinal health. They are

  • Ultrasound of the abdomen
  • Arteriography to obtain images of intestinal blood vessels along with angiography to evaluate blood flow, detect blockages, etc.
  • Endoscopy of the digestive tract and colonoscopy

Your doctor might also advice blood tests which rule out infections in blood.

Another diagnostic as well as treatment option for bowel ischemia and infarction is explorative surgery through which the intestine will be opened and the complication will be treated.


Treatment for bowel ischemia and infarction

In most cases, doctors opt for surgery to remove the complication that has lead to weakening of the intestine or death of the intestine.

The surgical options include eliminating the blockages, repair the damaged section or remove the dead parts of the intestine and re-establish normal blood circulation. Colostomy, re section of bowel, embolectomy, aortomesenteric bypass etc. are some treatment options.

Apart from this, your doctor will prescribe medicines after the operation which include antibiotics to prevent infection, anticoagulants and other drugs depending on the health of the patient.


Can bowel ischemia and infarction be prevented?

You can certainly reduce chances of this health complication by following a proper lifestyle that will eliminate risk factors of heart disease and intestinal infections. You can achieve this by quitting smoking, eating healthy and exercising regularly.

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: October 28, 2014

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