2009 Volume 218 Issue 2 Pages 83-92
Ischemic colitis is the most common type of intestinal ischemia, and it represents the consequences of acute or, more commonly, chronic blockage of blood flow through arteries that supply the large intestine. Ischemic colitis is manifested through a continuum of injury and considered as an illness of the elderly. The incidence of ischemic colitis has been underestimated, because many mild cases may go unreported. Patients experience abdominal pain, usually, localized to the left side of the abdomen, along with tenderness and bloody diarrhea. Severe ischemia may lead to bowel necrosis and perforation, which results in an acute abdomen and shock, frequently, being accompanied by lactic acidosis. Although computed tomography may have indicative findings, colonoscopy is the golden standard of diagnosis. Supportive care with intravenous fluids, optimization of hemodynamic status, avoidance of vasoconstrictive drugs, bowel rest, and empiric antibiotics will produce clinical improvement within 1 to 2 days in most patients. The condition resolves completely with conservative treatment, in most cases, but late diagnosis or severe ischemia can be associated with high rates of complications and death. However, when the interruption to the blood supply is more severe or more prolonged, the affected portion of the large intestine may have to be surgically removed. The present paper aims at bringing ischemic colitis up to date, by reviewing the current medical literature and extracting the contemporary data, about its presentation, diagnosis and treatment, which is of benefit to the readership, who may encounter this potentially fatal entity.