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Small & Large Intestine

Expert Diagnosis and Treatment of Ischemic Colitis

Ischemic colitis is a condition that occurs when the blood flow to a portion of the colon is reduced. It is usually due to a constriction of the blood vessels that supply blood to the colon. The constriction can cause low blood pressure in the vessels and reduce the amount of oxygenated blood that is delivered to the cells of the colon. Untreated, this can lead to tissue damage or even tissue death (gangrene), causing symptoms such as bloody diarrhea or abdominal pain.

Ischemic colitis can occur anywhere in the colon but most commonly affects the left side.

If you are experiencing symptoms of ischemic colitis, don’t delay care. Call 216-844-8500 to schedule an appointment with a UH digestive health specialist.

Symptoms of Ischemic Colitis

The symptoms of ischemic colitis can mimic many other digestive problems so it is important to consult with a gastroenterologist if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain on the left side of the abdomen
  • Abdominal tenderness or cramping
  • Bright or dark red blood in your stool or the passage of blood alone without stool
  • A frequent, urgent need to move your bowels
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea

If you have sudden, severe abdominal pain, it is a medical emergency. Call 9-1-1 immediately.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Ischemic Colitis

Ischemic colitis can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms can also occur with many other digestive problems. Most often, it will heal on its own within a few days. However, sometimes it can lead to serious complications if left untreated so it is very important to consult an experienced gastroenterologist for evaluation. An early and accurate diagnosis ensures the appropriate treatment can begin quickly for the best outcome. Diagnostic procedures may include:

  • Colonoscopy
  • Stool analysis
  • CT scan of the abdomen with contrast
  • Blood tests
  • Exploratory surgery

Treatment will depend on the results of the diagnostic tests and may include:

  • Medications
  • Stopping certain medications that are known to contribute to the condition
  • Surgery to repair damage to the colon

Causes and Risk Factors for Ischemic Colitis

The cause of ischemic colitis isn't fully understood, but it is most frequently seen in adult women over 60. In addition to age and gender, there are several other risk factors that can contribute to the development of this disorder. These include:

  • High cholesterol which can lead to atherosclerosis (buildup of fatty deposits on the walls of an artery)
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Previous abdominal surgery (scar tissue may form and reduce blood flow to the colon)
  • Previous surgery of the heart or blood vessels
  • Bowel obstruction due to a hernia, scar tissue or a tumor
  • Other blood disorders such as vasculitis, lupus or sickle cell anemia
  • Use of illegal drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine
  • Certain prescription medications including hormones, opioids, antibiotics and chemotherapy

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Choose the appropriate number below and call us for an appointment with a UH digestive health specialist:

  • Office appointment with a gastroenterologist: