Ischemic colitis: the ABCs of diagnosis and surgical management

J Visc Surg. 2013 Feb;150(1):19-28. doi: 10.1016/j.jviscsurg.2013.01.002. Epub 2013 Feb 20.


Ischemic colitis (IC) is a rare condition. As ischemia is often transient and clinical symptoms are reversible, its exact incidence is unknown. In current clinical practice, two types of IC are described according to the severity: severe IC, with transmural colonic ischemia and/or multi-organ failure (MOF), and mild IC, without MOF and spontaneous favourable evolution in most cases. Two clinical contexts are encountered: spontaneous IC (SIC) and postoperative IC (POIC), mainly after aortic surgery. As there is no specific clinico-biologic symptom of IC, emergent CT-scan and rectosigmoidoscopy are required for diagnosis confirmation, surgical decision and prognosis analysis. IC surgical treatment is not consensual but can be standardized according to organ function and the degree of ischemia: surgical treatment in case of colonic necrosis with deep ischemia and/or MOF; observation for superficial ischemia without organ dysfunction; systematic medical care. Surgery is required in 20% of cases, and consists in extended colectomy without continuity restoration and prophylactic cholecystectomy. Continuity restoration is feasible in one third of survivors, who are exposed to a high risk of severe cardiovascular events.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Colectomy
  • Colitis, Ischemic / diagnosis*
  • Colitis, Ischemic / etiology
  • Colitis, Ischemic / surgery*
  • Colon / diagnostic imaging
  • Colon / pathology
  • Colon / surgery
  • Colonoscopy
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed