In 10 patients with postprandial abdominal pain thought likely to be the result of mesenteric ischaemia Doppler ultrasound examinations of the superior mesenteric and coeliac arteries were performed both after fasting and a standard meal of 800 kcal. Compared with control values Doppler waveform analysis suggested seven abnormal vessels. Two patients had abnormal fasting superior mesenteric artery waveforms manifested by very high peak systolic velocities together with spectral broadening (one also had evidence of coeliac artery stenosis), and one patient had normal velocities but an abnormal signal and evidence of proximal superior mesenteric stenosis was supported by colour Doppler imaging and confirmed by angiography. Postprandially, two patients showed very high peak systolic and end diastolic velocities in the superior mesenteric artery (one had had a normal fasting waveform signal) and one in the coeliac artery, suggestive of vascular stenosis, while one patient showed a fall in peak systolic velocity. The diagnosis of mesenteric ischaemia in two of these patients was supported by digital subtraction angiography and abdominal computed tomography. Doppler ultrasound may be a useful non-invasive investigation for patients with postprandial abdominal pain that helps to select patients for angiography. Patients with tight vascular stenosis may have abnormal fasting Doppler waveform patterns but in symptomatic patients further information may be obtained after the haemodynamic stress of feeding. Additional information to enhance the diagnostic sensitivity of the test may be obtained by colour Doppler imaging.
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