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A rare cause of chronic mesenteric ischemia from fibromuscular dysplasia: a case report

Viplove Senadhi

Author Affiliations

Johns Hopkins University/Sinai Hospital Program in Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Sinai Hospital, Baltimore, MD, USA

Journal of Medical Case Reports 2010, 4:373  doi:10.1186/1752-1947-4-373

Published: 19 November 2010



Chronic mesenteric ischemia is a condition that is classically associated with significant atherosclerosis of the abdominal arteries, causing postprandial abdominal pain out of proportion to physical examination. The abdominal pain is exacerbated after meals due to the shunting of blood away from the intestines to the stomach, causing relative ischemia. More than 95% of chronic mesenteric ischemia cases are due to atherosclerosis. We report the first known case of chronic mesenteric ischemia from fibromuscular dysplasia. To the best of our knowledge, this is also the first known case in the literature where postprandial abdominal pain was the presenting symptom of fibromuscular dysplasia.

Case presentation

A 44-year-old Caucasian woman with a history of hypertension and preeclampsia, who had taken oral contraceptive pills for 15 years, presented with an intractable, colicky abdominal pain of two weeks duration. This abdominal pain worsened with oral intake. It was also associated with diarrhea and vomiting. Physical examination revealed stage III hypertension out of proportion to her risk factors and diffuse abdominal pain without peritoneal signs. An abdominal computed tomography scan, completed in the emergency room, revealed nonspecific colitis. Laboratory work revealed leukocytosis with a left shift, an erythrocyte sedimentation rate of 79 and a C-reactive protein level of 100. She was started on intravenous flagyl and intravenous ciprofloxacin. However, all microbial cultures were negative including three cultures for clostridium difficile. Urine analysis revealed nephritic range proteinuria. The laboratory profile was within normal limits for perinuclear-anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody, cytoplasmic-anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody, anti-saccharomyces cerevisiae antibody, antinuclear antibody test, celiac profile, lactate, carbohydrate antigen-125 and thyroid stimulating hormone. A colonoscopy was completed, which revealed diffuse colonic lymphoid reactive hyperplasia. A small bowel series was negative for any inflammation. An indium scan, pan-computed tomography scan and transvaginal ultrasound were also negative. Magnetic resonance angiography of her abdomen revealed proximal superior mesenteric artery stenosis, which was confirmed by computed tomography angiogram findings of severe proximal and distal superior mesenteric artery stenosis, consistent with the appearance of fibromuscular dysplasia on angiography in the absence of vasculitis or atherosclerotic disease. The patient's superior mesenteric artery stenosis was subsequently angioplastied suboptimally and had to be stented with an Angioplus stent. One month after she was admitted, her abdominal pain and tolerance to oral feeds improved tremendously.


Fibromuscular dysplasia most commonly presents with renal artery stenosis, which rarely causes abdominal pain. This case illustrates how fibromuscular dysplasia can present as a rare cause of chronic mesenteric ischemia, similar to chronic mesenteric ischemia from atherosclerosis.