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Digestive system
Digestive system


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Digestive system organs


Definition:

Ischemic colitis is a sudden swelling (inflammation) of a part of the large intestine (colon) that occurs when there is a temporary loss of, or reduction in, blood flow to the colon.



Alternative Names:

Colonic ischemia



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Ischemic colitis mainly affects people over 50. Many of them have a history of peripheral vascular disease .

Other risk factors include:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Diabetes
  • History of stroke
  • Low blood pressure
  • Previous aortic surgery with unintentional damage to the artery supplying the colon
  • Radiation to the abdomen


Signs and tests:

Treatment:

Mild, temporary ischemic colitis is treated by maintaining good blood pressure. This can be done with medicines and by avoiding dehydration. Antibiotics are sometimes used.

Chronic ischemic colitis leading to areas of narrowed colon (strictures) is treated by removing the narrowed areas with surgery.

Severe ischemic colitis that leads to gangrene is treated with:

  • Antibiotics
  • Replacement of blood volume
  • Surgery to remove the affected bowel area


Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

Most cases of ischemic colitis are mild and will improve on their own. They do not need treatment.

The death rate is high when gangrene occurs because there is not enough blood supply.



Complications:
  • Gangrene of the bowel
  • Hole in the intestine (perforation)
  • Inflammation of the lining of the abdomen (peritonitis )
  • Sepsis


Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if you develop symptoms of ischemic colitis.



Prevention:

Being aware of your risk may allow early diagnosis and treatment. Absolute prevention may not be possible.



References:

Hauser SC. Vascular diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 146.




Review Date: 5/27/2008
Reviewed By: Christian Stone, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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