Contemporary management of acute mesenteric ischemia: Factors associated with survival

J Vasc Surg. 2002 Mar;35(3):445-52. doi: 10.1067/mva.2002.120373.


Purpose: Acute mesenteric ischemia (AMI) is a morbid condition with a difficult diagnosis and a high rate of complications, which is associated with a high mortality rate. For the evaluation of the results of current management and the examination of factors associated with survival, we reviewed our experience.

Methods: The clinical data of all the patients who underwent operation for AMI between January 1, 1990, and December 31, 1999, were retrospectively reviewed, clinical outcome was recorded, and factors associated with survival rate were analyzed.

Results: Fifty-eight patients (22 men and 36 women; mean age, 67 years; age range, 35 to 96 years) underwent study. The cause of AMI was embolism in 16 patients (28%), thrombosis in 37 patients (64%), and nonocclusive mesenteric ischemia (NMI) in five patients (8.6%). Abdominal pain was the most frequent presenting symptom (95%). Twenty-five patients (43%) had previous symptoms of chronic mesenteric ischemia. All the patients underwent abdominal exploration, preceded with arteriography in 47 (81%) and with endovascular treatment in eight. Open mesenteric revascularization was performed in 43 patients (bypass grafting, n = 22; thromboembolectomy, n = 19; patch angioplasty, n = 11; endarterectomy, n = 5; reimplantation, n = 2). Thirty-one patients (53%) needed bowel resection at the first operation. Twenty-three patients underwent second-look procedures, 11 patients underwent bowel resections (repeat resection, n = 9), and three patients underwent exploration only. The 30-day mortality rate was 32%. The rate was 31% in patients with embolism, 32% in patients with thrombosis, and 80% in patients with NMI. Multiorgan failure (n = 18 patients) was the most frequent cause of death. The cumulative survival rates at 90 days, at 1 year, and at 3 years were 59%, 43%, and 32%, respectively, which was lower than the rate of a Midwestern white control population (P <.001). Six of the 16 late deaths (38%) occurred because of complications of mesenteric ischemia. Age less than 60 years (P <.003) and bowel resection (P =.03) were associated with improved survival rates.

Conclusion: The contemporary management of AMI with revascularization with open surgical techniques, resection of nonviable bowel, and liberal use of second-look procedures results in the early survival of two thirds of the patients with embolism and thrombosis. Older patients, those who did not undergo bowel resection, and those with NMI have the highest mortality rates. The long-term survival rate remains dismal. Timely revascularization in patients who are symptomatic with chronic mesenteric ischemia should be considered to decrease the high mortality rate of AMI.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Angiography
  • Embolism / complications
  • Embolism / mortality
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Ischemia / diagnosis
  • Ischemia / mortality
  • Ischemia / therapy*
  • Male
  • Mesentery / blood supply*
  • Middle Aged
  • Minnesota / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Analysis
  • Thrombosis / complications
  • Thrombosis / mortality
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Duplex
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use


  • Vasodilator Agents