Ischemic Bowel Disease
Ischemic bowel disease results from inadequate flow of oxygenated blood to the intestines. The extent of ischemic bowel disease can range from mild to severe based on the amount of damage from lack of oxygenated blood. This is a potentially serious condition and immediate medical care. The sooner ischemic bowel disease is treated, the more favorable the outcome.
Ischemic bowel disease occurs when an artery that supplies blood becomes blocked or narrowed. There are several possible causes of ischemic bowel disease, including:
- Blockage in the arteries due to a tumor or blood clot
- Narrowing of the arteries supplying blood to the bowel from atherosclerosis
- Obstruction in the colon (large intestine)
Ischemic bowel disease is more common in older adults. Other factors that may increase your chances of developing ischemic bowel disease include:
- Shock induced by conditions such as blood stream infection and blood loss
- Recent heart attack
- Sustained abnormal heart beat
- Heart failure
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Coronary artery bypass surgery or other vascular surgeries
- Colon cancer
- Certain medications that cause arteries to narrow
- Sickle cell disease
Ischemic bowel disease may cause:
- Cramping and abdominal pain
- Bloody stools
- Frequent urge to defecate
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal distension
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may suspect ischemic bowel disease based on your symptoms and risk factors. Tests may be done to confirm or rule out a diagnosis.
Tests may include the following:
Treatment options depend on the severity of the ischemia and include the following:
Bowel rest and intravenous fluids are given in mild cases without significant progressed damage to the bowel.
Antibiotics are administered to minimize infection, which can quickly complicate an ischemic bowel.
To help reduce your chances of developing ischemic bowel disease, take the following steps:
- Stay well hydrated
- Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease through regular exercise and a balanced diet low in fat and calories
- Consume plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and fiber, which may reduce your risk of colon cancer
American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
National Library of Medicine
BC Health Guide
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology (CAG)
Green BT, Tendler DA. Ischemic colitis: A clinical review. Southern Med J. 2005;98:217-222.
Greenwald DA, Brandt LJ, Reinus JF. Ischemic bowel disease in the elderly. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2001;30:445-465.
Ischemic colitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 25, 2013. Accessed August 13, 2014.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.