Mesenteric Venous Thrombosis

Shaji Kumar, M.D., Michael G. Sarr, M.D., and Patrick S. Kamath, M.D.

Mesenteric venous thrombosis was recognized as a cause of intestinal gangrene more than a century ago by Elliot,1 but Warren and Eberhard2 were the first to characterize mesenteric venous thrombosis as a cause of intestinal infarction distinct from mesenteric arterial occlusion. Mesenteric venous thrombosis accounts for 5 to 15 percent of all mesenteric ischemic events3 and usually involves the superior mesenteric vein; the inferior mesenteric vein is involved only rarely.4 The diagnosis is often delayed, and most cases are identified either at laparotomy or at autopsy. Improvements in imaging techniques have led to early diagnosis, and a better idea of the cause of mesenteric venous thrombosis has led to changes in treatment.