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What Is a Bowel Infarction?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 22 June 2014
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A bowel infarction, also known as bowel death, is a term used to describe the destruction of bowel tissue due to restricted blood flow. This restriction can have several different causes, including bowel strangulation or an occlusion of one of the mesenteric arteries. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment, as a bowel infarction can cause death without prompt surgical intervention. Even with emergency surgery, this condition can be fatal. Any individualized questions or concerns about a bowel infarction should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Bowel strangulation is one of the most common causes of a bowel infarction. This occurs when a portion of the intestine becomes twisted, resulting in reduced blood flow. A strangulated bowel typically develops as a result of a hernia or adhesions that occur as the result of previous surgical procedures. Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain are common symptoms of bowel strangulation, and emergency surgery is required in order to prevent a potentially fatal bowel infarction from occurring.

A twisted bowel is another potential cause of a bowel infarction. This is a potentially serious medical condition, although it does not always cause a medical emergency. In mild cases, symptoms may come and go and have varying ranges of severity. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and constipation. If symptoms become severe, it is usually because a strangulation occurs, signifying a medical emergency.

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Arterial occlusion involving one of the mesenteric arteries is yet another possible contributing factor to the development of a bowel infarction. This condition is usually caused by a buildup of a substance called plaque inside the artery. This plaque buildup causes the artery to become narrowed, reducing the blood flow to the intestines. Early in the course of the disease, this occlusion may be able to be treated with a combination of medications, dietary changes, and lifestyle modification. If the condition progresses, surgical intervention may become necessary.

Regardless of the direct cause of a bowel infarction, surgical intervention is the only effective treatment. The damaged portion of the intestine is removed, and the healthy ends of the bowel are reconnected. This type of surgery increases the chances of the infarction developing again later due to scar tissue and adhesions, so the patient will be closely monitored for any signs of returning symptoms. Any abdominal pain following surgery should be reported to a doctor for further medical evaluation.

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