Large Bowel Ischemia/Infarction: How to Recognize It and Make Differential Diagnosis? A Review

Diagnostics (Basel). 2021 May 30;11(6):998. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics11060998.


Ischemic colitis represents the most frequent form of intestinal ischemia occurring when there is an acute impairment or chronic reduction in the colonic blood supply, resulting in mucosal ulceration, inflammation, hemorrhage and ischemic necrosis of variable severity. The clinical presentation is variable and nonspecific, so it is often misdiagnosed. The most common etiology is hypoperfusion, almost always associated with generalized atherosclerotic disease. The severity ranges from localized and transient ischemia to transmural necrosis of the bowel wall, becoming a surgical emergency, with significant associated morbidity and mortality. The diagnosis is based on clinical, laboratory suspicion and radiological, endoscopic and histopathological findings. Among the radiological tests, enhanced-CT is the diagnostic investigation of choice. It allows us to make the diagnosis in an appropriate clinical setting, and to define the entity of the ischemia. MR may be adopted in the follow-up in patients with iodine allergy or renal dysfunctions, or younger patients who should avoid radiological exposure. In the majority of cases, supportive therapy is the only required treatment. In this article we review the pathophysiology and the imaging findings of ischemic colitis.

Keywords: colon; diagnostic imaging; emergencies; ischemic colitis; mesenteric ischemia.

Publication types

  • Review