Ischemic Bowel Disease
by Monica Bearden, RD
Ischemic bowel disease results from inadequate flow of oxygenated blood to the intestines. The extent of ischemic bowel disease can range from mild to severe based on the amount of damage from lack of oxygenated blood. This is a potentially serious condition and immediate medical care. The sooner ischemic bowel disease is treated, the more favorable the outcome.
Ischemic bowel disease occurs when an artery that supplies blood becomes blocked or narrowed. There are several possible causes of ischemic bowel disease, including:
Risk Factors TOP
Ischemic bowel disease is more common in older adults. Other factors that may increase your chances of developing ischemic bowel disease include:
Ischemic bowel disease may cause:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may suspect ischemic bowel disease based on your symptoms and risk factors. Tests may be done to confirm or rule out a diagnosis.
Tests may include the following:
Treatment options depend on the severity of the ischemia and include the following:
Bowel rest and intravenous fluids are given in mild cases without significant progressed damage to the bowel.
Antibiotics are administered to minimize infection, which can quickly complicate an ischemic bowel.
In more severe cases, surgery is required to remove the ischemic colon.
To help reduce your chances of developing ischemic bowel disease:
American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
National Library of Medicine
BC Health Guide
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Green BT, Tendler DA. Ischemic colitis: A clinical review. Southern Med J. 2005;98(2):217-222.
Greenwald DA, Brandt LJ, et al. Ischemic bowel disease in the elderly. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2001;30(2):445-465.
Ischemic colitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Updated September 25, 2013. Accessed August 13, 2014.
Last reviewed August 2015 by Daus Mahnke, MD