Ischemic Colitis

What is ischemic colitis?
Ischemic colitis is a type of inflammation of the lining of the colon (colitis) caused by a reduction of flow in the blood vessels supplying the colon. The lining of the colon may appear reddened, sometimes with ulcerations.

What are the symptoms of ischemic colitis?

• Abdominal pain, which can be anywhere, but most often on the left side.
• Bloody stools, which usually occur after the pain begins
• Abdominal bloating, distension.
• Rarely, patients may not have any symptoms.

What causes ischemic colitis?

• Spontaneous, with no apparent underlying cause (this is common)
• Blood clot to the blood vessels supplying the colon.
• Peripheral vascular disease
• A tendency for the blood to clot abnormally.
• Diabetes
• Low blood pressure from any cause
• Drugs
• Long distance running
• Infection
• Airplane flights
• Other causes

What are the complications of ischemic colitis?

• Usually the colitis will heal on its own . Most patients improve within one to two weeks.
• Persistent or recurrent colitis
• Stricture (scar tissue which blocks the channel of the colon).
• Severe involvement may require hospitalization for more intensive treatment. Occasionally surgery may be required, but this is unusual.

What is the treatment for ischemic colitis?

• This depends on the severity; generally, the inflammation will heal on its own.
• You may be asked to stay on a bland, low-fiber diet for 1-2 weeks.
• Avoiding non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, etc) may speed the healing of the colitis.
• Cessation of smoking improves the health of the blood vessels supplying your colon.
• If a drug is identified that may have caused your ischemic colitis, you may be asked to stop it.
• If you have had blood clots in other areas of the body, or a family history of blood clots, then you may be asked to undergo testing for a blood-clotting disorder .
• Rarely, you may have to undergo additional testing, which may include an evaluation of the blood vessels supplying your small bowel and colon.
• You may require a repeat colonoscopy to demonstrate that the colon has healed; this depends on the severity of the involvement, and will be determined by your physician.