Acute non-occlusive mesenteric ischemia of the small bowel in a patient started on hemodialysis: a case report
BACKGROUND Non-occlusive mesenteric ischemia (NOMI) can be a fatal complication in dialysis patients. Intradialytic hypotension is usually the precipitating factor. The occurrence of 16 cases in 5 years (1998-2002), compared with only 4 in previous years, led us to investigate other risk factors contributing to NOMI. A control group of stable hemodialysis patients was used for comparison. RESULTS 20 patients were studied: 17 diagnosed surgically, and 3 clinically. The mean age was 70.8 +/- 1.8 years, and the male:female ratio 7:13. Nineteen patients were on hemodialysis. Clinically overt atherosclerosis was present in 17 patients. Preceding dialysis-associated hypotension was identified in all patients studied and access thrombosis in 6 patients. In all patients, abdominal pain was the presenting symptom. Initial abdominal examination was unimpressive in 16 patients. The hemoconcentration, leukocytosis and metabolic acidosis were the most prominent laboratory findings. 5/11 abdominal sonograms showed intestinal pathology. 2/3 angiographies were diagnostic. Three patients responded to early fluid challenge and did not require surgery. Pathology was related to the area of the superior mesenteric artery in all 15 patients operated. Twelve (60%) patients died from the event. The 1-year mortality rate was 17/20 patients (85%). Possible contributing factors, other than dialysis-associated hypotension, included: high-dose recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEPO) therapy (179 +/- 35 vs. 116 +/- 10 U/kg/week in the control group, p < 0.05); metastatic calcifications (abdominal aorta 14/14, aortic valve 11/18; medial calcification of mesenteric arteries in 2/11 pathology specimens); digoxin, and hypoalbuminemia. CONCLUSIONS The increased incidence of NOMI in dialysis patients may be related to overly aggressive rhEPO therapy and the unsuspected presence of mesenteric arterial medial calcifications. Identification of patients at risk, prevention of intradialytic hypotension and a controlled increase in dry weight may help to reduce the incidence of NOMI in chronically dialyzed patients.