Mesenteric Vascular Disease

Mesenteric vascular disease is a condition that develops when the arteries in the abdomen that supply the intestines with blood become narrowed due to the build-up of plaque (a process called atherosclerosis). The result is a lack of blood supply to the intestines. The disease can come on suddenly with severe abdominal pain or may develop over time.

Risk factors for mesenteric vascular disease include atrial fibrillation, heart failure, chronic renal failure, smoking, a family history of atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, advanced age, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.


Patients with mesenteric artery disease often experience weight loss and severe abdominal pain following meals. Other symptoms include vomiting, dizziness and low blood pressure due to accumulation of acid in the blood.


Diagnosis is typically made through ultrasound or direct imaging of the artery. Imaging tests include CT scan, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) or an arteriography, which can be used to determine the location and the extent of the disease.

Treatment Options

Patients whose symptoms are mild to moderate can often manage their disease by making lifestyle changes that include: quitting smoking, getting regular exercise and managing related conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Surgical Options

Endarterectomy:  Involves the surgical removal of plaque build-up on the inner lining of the artery.

Bypass Grafting: Redirects blood flow around an area of blockage. The procedure creates an alternate channel for blood flow, bypassing an obstructed or damaged vessel. The graft may come from a healthy section of the patient's own vein, or from a synthetic material such as Dacron™.

Endovascular Options

Balloon Angioplasty and Stenting: A catheter with a small balloon at the end is inserted through an artery in the groin and guided to the narrowed segment of the artery. When the catheter reaches the blockage, the balloon is inflated to widen the narrowed artery (known as balloon angioplasty).

In some cases, it may be necessary to place a stent (a wire-mesh tube that expands to hold the artery open). The stent is left permanently in the artery to provide a reinforced channel for blood flow.

Mesenteric Vascular Disease Treatment at the University of Michigan

Clinicians at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of mesenteric vascular disease. 

Treatment is focused around a multidisciplinary approach and includes specialists from nephrology, interventional radiology, intensive care and vascular surgery. This means multiple specialists can be seen in a single visit and treatment strategies are a coordinated effort between every physician involved in the patient’s care.

Make an Appointment

Visit our Make an Appointment page for more information.