A review of ischemic colitis: is our clinical recognition and management adequate?

Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2013 Sep;7(7):605-13. doi: 10.1586/17474124.2013.832485.


Ischemic colitis is a common cause of hospital admissions; however it is frequently confused intellectually with mesenteric ischemia and often misdiagnosed as infectious diarrhea or Clostridium difficile colitis. Ischemic colitis is caused by non-occlusive insult to the small vessels supplying the colon without a clear precipitating factor. It is more common in females and in patients above 60 years of age. The classic presentation includes sudden onset of lower abdominal pain followed by the urge to defecate and bloody diarrhea. Focal right-sided ischemic colitis has more pain and a worse prognosis. Choosing the correct diagnostic studies is challenging and requires proficient knowledge of the disease. Management is usually conservative, however around 10-20% of the patients will require surgery. Acute ischemic colitis usually resolves; nevertheless some patients may develop chronic segmental colitis or a stricture. One ischemic colitis caveat is that it may be the first sign of undiagnosed cardiac disease. A firm grasp on this common yet little discussed condition is valuable to a gastrointestinal consultant and hospitalist alike.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Colitis, Ischemic / diagnosis*
  • Colitis, Ischemic / epidemiology
  • Colitis, Ischemic / therapy*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome