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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Visceral Arterial Disease and Treatment

Mesenteric artery disease

Mesenteric artery disease can either be chronic or acute. Chronic means the condition occurs over a long period of time. Acute means that the symptoms start suddenly and become serious very quickly.

The mesenteric arteries are blood vessels that carry blood to the intestines. These arteries can become blocked reducing blood flow to the intestines. Most artery blockages occur because of atherosclerosis, a slow process in which deposits of fat, cholesterol and calcium build up inside an artery, also known as plaque. A blood clot, called an embolus, can travel to one of the mesenteric arteries and cause sudden onset of symptoms. These clots usually come from the heart and are more common in people with an irregular heart beat. Aneurysms, a weakened, bulging part of the artery, can also occur and result in rupture of the artery.

Risk Factors

Risk factors may include:

  • Aortic dissection
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood cholesterol
  • High blood pressure

Symptoms

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe, abdominal pain after eating or sudden onset
  • Weight loss

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of mesenteric artery disease is made using the following tests:

Treatment

Medical Therapy

Open Surgery

The goal of surgery is to restore blood flow to the intestine. Depending on the extent and location of the artery blockage, surgery can be done in one of the following ways:

  • Endarterectomy: Removal of plaque from the blocked artery to restore blood flow
  • Bypass: Placement of a bypass graft to reroute blood flow around the arterial blockage or replace an aneurysm
  • Embolectomy: Removal of a blood clot from an artery to restore blood flow
  • Removal of intestine: If any of the intestine is no longer viable, it needs to be removed

Minimally-Invasive Endovascular Therapy: Angioplasty and Stenting

  • Angioplasty and stenting are performed to open up the artery blockage and improve blood flow to the intestines. A long, thin, flexible tube (catheter) with a balloon tip is inserted into an artery in the groin. Guided by X-ray and a contrast "dye," the tube is threaded to the site of the artery blockage. Once it is in place, the balloon is inflated and pushes the plaque against the artery wall. A stent, a tiny mesh coil often made of stainless steel, is then placed to keep open the blocked artery. The stent is permanent.

Renal Artery Disease

The renal arteries are blood vessels that carry blood to the kidneys. Your kidneys help control blood pressure and eliminate waste products from your body. The arteries can become blocked reducing blood flow to the kidneys. Most artery blockages occur because of atherosclerosis, a slow process in which deposits of fat, cholesterol and calcium build up inside an artery, also known as plaque. When artery blockages occur in the renal arteries, the kidney is unable to perform its job. Fibromuscular dysplasia, abnormal tissue growth on the inside of the renal arteries, can also cause renal artery disease. Aneurysms, a weakened, bulging part of the artery, can also occur and result in rupture of the artery.

Risk Factors

Risk factors may include:

  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood cholesterol
  • High blood pressure

Symptoms

  • Blood or protein in urine
  • High blood pressure that is difficult to treat with medication, especially in childhood and in women less than 45 years of age
  • Kidney failure
  • Pain in sides of abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden, severe swelling in legs

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of renal artery disease is made using the following tests:

Treatment

Medical Therapy

Open Surgery

The goal of surgery is to restore blood flow to the kidneys. Depending on the extent and location of the artery blockage, surgery can be done in one of the following ways:

  • Endarterectomy: Removal of plaque from the blocked artery to restore blood flow
  • Bypass: Placement of a bypass graft to reroute blood flow around the arterial blockage or replace an aneurysm

Minimally-Invasive Endovascular Therapy: Angioplasty and Stenting

Angioplasty and stenting are performed to open up the artery blockage and improve blood flow to the intestines. A long, thin, flexible tube (catheter) with a balloon tip is inserted into an artery in the groin. Guided by X-ray and a contrast "dye," the tube is threaded to the site of the artery blockage. Once it is in place, the balloon is inflated and pushes the plaque against the artery wall. A stent, a tiny mesh coil often made of stainless steel, is then placed to keep open the blocked artery. The stent is permanent.

Outcomes

At the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, we evaluate our clinical outcomes so that we can fully understand how our treatments and procedures benefit our patients. We regularly review and evaluate our clinical outcomes and, based on the results, develop methods to monitor and improve the healthcare we offer to our vascular patients.

Clinical Trials

Ongoing clinical research trials at the Center for Vascular Disease are investigating new treatments options for abdominal aortic aneurysms to ensure that our patients continue to receive the most innovative care in the country. For more information regarding these clinical trials, visit the Clinical Trials Unit of Northwestern, send an e-mail or call 312-926-4000.

Contact Us Today

For more information regarding abdominal aortic aneurysms and the treatments available, please contact the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 866-662-8467. To schedule an appointment, please call 312-695-4965 or request a first-time appointment online.

Last UpdateNovember 23, 2012
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