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J Vasc Surg. 1994 Nov;20(5):688-97.

Mesenteric venous thrombosis: still a lethal disease in the 1990s.

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Division of Vascular Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.



This study was designed to evaluate progress in diagnosis, management, and clinical outcome of mesenteric venous thrombosis (MVT).


We retrospectively reviewed the clinical course of 72 patients treated for mesenteric venous thrombosis between 1972 and 1993.


Fifty-three patients had acute and 19 had chronic mesenteric venous thrombosis. Fifty-seven patients had secondary mesenteric venous thrombosis; previous abdominal surgical procedure and hypercoagulable states were the most prevalent associated conditions. Computed tomography was abnormal in all patients who underwent this test for acute mesenteric venous thrombosis and in 93% of those who had chronic disease. Angiography diagnosed acute mesenteric venous thrombosis in five (72%) of seven patients. Acute mesenteric venous thrombosis presented most frequently as abdominal pain (83%), anorexia (53%), and diarrhea (43%). Thirty-three (75%) had symptoms longer than 48 hours. Thirty-four (64%) patients with acute mesenteric venous thrombosis underwent a surgical procedure. Bowel resection was necessary in 31 patients. One patient had unsuccessful mesenteric venous thrombectomy. Seven patients with acute mesenteric venous thrombosis underwent anticoagulation without a surgical procedure, and 12 were observed. All patients with chronic mesenteric venous thrombosis were observed; nine of the 19 underwent anticoagulation. The median delay in diagnosis for patients with acute mesenteric venous thrombosis was 48 hours and did not decrease during the last decade. Mesenteric venous thrombosis recurred in 19 (36%) patients. The 30-day mortality was 27%. Long-term survival of patients with acute mesenteric venous thrombosis was significantly worse than that of those with chronic disease (36% vs 83% survival at 3 years). The patients with acute mesenteric venous thrombosis who underwent anticoagulation with and without surgical procedure had improved survival when compared with the observed group.


Acute mesenteric venous thrombosis remains a lethal disease. Mortality has not improved in the last 22 years. Computed tomography is the most sensitive diagnostic test. Anticoagulation and surgical procedure enhanced survival in the acute subgroup. The underlying disease determined survival in chronic disease.

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