Acute mesenteric ischaemia and unexpected death

Discipline of Anatomy and Pathology, School of Health Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.
Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine (Impact Factor: 0.76). 05/2012; 19(4):185-90. DOI: 10.1016/j.jflm.2011.12.023
Source: PubMed


Acute mesenteric ischaemia is a vascular emergency that arises when blood flow to the intestine is compromised leading to tissue necrosis. It is primarily a condition of the elderly associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Causes include arterial thromboembolism, venous thrombosis and splanchnic vasoconstriction (so-called nonocclusive mesenteric ischaemia). Reperfusion injury and breakdown of the intestinal mucosal barrier lead to metabolic derangements, sepsis and death from multiorgan failure. The diagnosis may be difficult to make clinically and numbers of cases are increasing due to ageing of the population. The clinical and pathological features are reviewed with discussion of predisposing conditions. Careful dissection of the mesenteric vasculature is required at autopsy with appropriate histologic sampling and documentation of associated comorbidities. Other organs need to be checked for thrombi and the possibility of testing for inherited thombophilias should be considered. Toxicological evaluation, particularly in younger individuals, may reveal evidence of cocaine use. On occasion no obstructive lesions will be demonstrated, however the confounding effects of post-mortem autolytic and putrefactive changes may mean that nonocclusive mesenteric ischaemia may be difficult to diagnose.

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Available from: Roger W Byard, Feb 18, 2014
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