Mesenteric ischemia

Medical Information Provided By: Dr. Krista Kurtyan, M.D.
Legal Information Provided By: Hartley Hampton, J.D. and Christopher King, J.D.

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The mesentery is a little-known part of the body that some doctors consider to be its own organ. The tissues of the mesentery are what hold the intestines to the abdominal wall. It’s also home to the mesenteric vein, which runs through the small intestine. Mesenteric ischemia is the result of a blockage in the small intestine’s blood supply, often occurring in the mesenteric vein.

The most common symptoms of mesenteric ischemia includes:

  • Severe, sharp abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Fear of eating

Mesenteric ischemia (also known as bowel ischemia) has an extremely high mortality rate—when left undiagnosed, it can lead to bowel death, gangrene, and fatalities in up to 50% of patients who develop it. The blockage is most often caused by thrombosis (blood clots), embolisms (which includes pieces of blood clots or gas bubbles in the blood vessels), or arterial constriction/spasms.

The Causes of Mesenteric Ischemia & Bowel Death

The risk is higher in patients who have a long-term history of taking anticoagulants. However, in many cases it’s not the patients who are the root cause of mesenteric ischemia—it’s medical negligence. Doctors often fail to protect their patients or properly react to the symptoms of mesenteric ischemia and bowel death. Medical researchers have found that the only way to reverse the effects of mesenteric ischemia is through early diagnosis—delays are direct contributors to bowel infarction.

In most cases, early diagnosis depends on:

  • CT scans
  • Angiography
  • Clinical experience
  • Surgical consultations

In other words, doctors are the only ones who have the training and ability to distinguish between stomach pains due to common causes and due to blockage in the mesenteric vein. It’s their responsibility to provide thorough testing and monitoring to ensure that their patients aren’t suffering from a life-threatening blood clot. The good news is that acute mesenteric ischemia can be reversed if it’s caught early—usually in the first 12 to 24 hours. Any later than that and the patients are likely to develop gangrene in the intestines.

The Mortality Rate for Bowel Ischemia

The mortality rates depend on the type of vessel blockage the patient has. For background, thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in a vein or artery. An embolism is a potential blockage that travels through a vessel until it gets stuck and creates a blockage. An embolism can form by breaking off of a thrombosis (thromboembolism) or it can be an air bubble, a foreign object, or even a piece of a medical device.

The mortality rates are as follows:

  • Thrombosis in the vein: 32%
  • Embolism in the artery: 54%
  • Thrombosis in the artery: 77%
  • Non-occlusive ischemia: 73%

Non-occlusive ischemia is low blood flow that results from a non-blockage (e.g. arterial disease, stiff vessel walls, arterial spasms, and physical trauma).

Call Our Houston Malpractice Lawyers & Medical Professionals

For over 50 years, Hampton & King has fought for the victims of medical negligence, poor practices, and reckless treatment. We have won millions of dollars for hundreds of clients because we believe in what we do: helping injured patients get the financial support and medical care they desperately need. Cases like mesenteric ischemic demand the full resources of an attorney who solely practices medical malpractice—that’s why our firm is one of the only firms in Texas or New Mexico to be 100% committed to handling medical malpractice cases.

Part of our success comes from having medical professionals assist with our case development process. We’re one of the few medical malpractice law firms in the nation to have a medical doctor and a Ph.D. nurse as full-time members of our staff. When people call to share the stories of what happened to them, they’ll have an actual doctor going over their case—getting them the definitive answers they’ve been looking for.

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