Send to

Choose Destination
J Vasc Surg. 2001 Oct;34(4):680-4.

Mesenteric venous thrombosis: a changing clinical entity.

Author information

Division of Vascular Surgery, Department of Surgery, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.



Mesenteric venous thrombosis (MVT) and its clinical spectrum have become better defined following improvements in diagnostic imaging. Historically, MVT has been described as a morbid clinical entity, but this may not necessarily be true. Often, an underlying disease process that predisposes a patient to MVT can be found and potentially treated. This study was designed to evaluate the diagnostics and management of MVT and to review long-term results of treatment.


Thirty-one patients in whom MVT was diagnosed between 1985 and 1999 were retrospectively reviewed. Survivors were contacted for follow-up. There were 15 men and 16 women. Ages ranged from 22 to 80 years (mean, 49.1 years). Thirteen patients had documented hypercoagulability, 10 had a history of previous abdominal surgery, 6 had a prior thrombotic episode, and 4 had a history of cancer. MVT presented as abdominal pain (84%), diarrhea (42%), and nausea/vomiting (32%). Computed tomography (CT) was considered diagnostic in 18 (90%) of 20 patients who underwent the test. CT diagnosed MVT in 15 (100%) of 15 patients presenting with vague abdominal pain or diarrhea. Angiography demonstrated MVT in only five (55.5%) of nine patients.


Seven of 31 patients died within 30 days (< 30-day mortality rate, 23%). Twenty-two patients (72%) were initially treated with heparin. Nine patients were not heparinized: four of them died, and two were later given warfarin sodium (Coumadin). Of the 31 patients, only one received lytic therapy. Three patients became symptom free without anticoagulation. Ten patients (32%) underwent bowel resection. Overall, 19 (79%) of 24 survivors were treated with long-term warfarin therapy. Long-term follow-up was obtained in 24 patients (mean, 57.7 months). Twenty-one (88%) of 24 survived in follow-up.


The diagnosis of MVT should be suspected when acute abdominal symptoms develop in patients with prior thrombotic episodes or a documented coagulopathy. CT scanning appears to be the primary diagnostic test of choice. Anticoagulation is recommended. If diagnosed and treated early, MVT is not likely to progress to gangrenous bowel. Recent mortality rates for MVT are lower than previously published, perhaps because of earlier diagnosis and aggressive treatment or possibly because we now readily diagnose a more benign form of the disease, which is due to widespread use of CT scanning.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center