What Is a Bowel Infarction?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2019
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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 this condition should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Bowel strangulation is one of the most common causes of 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 infarction from occurring.

A twisted bowel is another potential cause of this condition. 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.


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 the 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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Post 2

A friend of mine has severe Crohn's disease. She has to go have these infusions several times a year for it. She has a colostomy bag because her large intestine basically died on her. She had part of it removed, and then another part, and then another part -- all bowel infarctions -- and then finally the doctor said she just needed a colostomy. She's had a colostomy bag since she was in high school, for one reason or another. She said she could tell when she was having an infarction because the pain was so awful.

Crohn's is a terrible disease to have. It's always lurking near the surface.

Post 1

My cousin has had to go to the ER several times for a twisted bowel, and her pain was so severe, the doctor honestly thought she might have had bowel infarction.

She is a Type 1 diabetic and has had other health issues also, so she has to be very aware of this kind of thing. Her doctor pretty much told her that if she was having even minor pain, to call and let him know, that he would decide whether she needed to go to the ER at that time, or whether she could wait. He said bowel infarction was a very real risk for her, though.

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