What Is Mesenteric Artery Disease?

The mesenteric arteries are blood vessels that carry blood to the intestines. Mesenteric artery disease occurs when blood flow to one of the arteries to the intestines is blocked.

Mesenteric artery disease can either be chronic or acute. Chronic disease means the condition is ongoing, happening over a long period of time. Acute disease means the symptoms start suddenly and become serious very quickly.

Chronic mesenteric artery disease may be caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Plaque made of fat, cholesterol and calcium builds up in an artery over time, reducing blood flow to the intestines. Atherosclerosis can also cause an aneurysm—a weakened, bulging part of the artery that can rupture and cause internal bleeding.

Acute mesenteric artery disease may be caused by a blood clot blocking one of the mesenteric arteries. Blood clots usually come from the heart, and are more common in people with irregular heartbeat.

Meet the Mesenteric Artery Disease Team

Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute is a nationally recognized destination for those who require highly specialized cardiovascular care.

Related Resources

  • Atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis is thickening or hardening of the arteries caused by plaque buildup.
  • Mesenteric Ischemia: Learn the cause and risk factors for mesenteric ischemia, which is decreased or blocked blood flow to the intestines.