Duplex ultrasound in the early diagnosis of acute mesenteric ischemia: a longitudinal cohort multicentric study

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Acute mesenteric ischemia (AMI) is a life-threatening condition requiring time-dependent treatment; thus, early recognition may improve outcomes. We hypothesized that clinician-performed mesenteric vessels duplex ultrasound (DUS) could facilitate early identification of patients with AMI in high-risk patients presenting with abdominal pain.


This was a single-operator, observational, prospective cohort study. Patients aged at least 65 presenting to Emergency Departments with acute abdominal pain and no clear diagnosis after an initial work-up were enrolled. All patients underwent multidetector computed tomography and these findings provided the reference standard in this study. DUS of the celiac artery and superior mesenteric artery (SMA) were obtained to measure the peak systolic velocity (PSV) and were performed within 24 h of admission. PSVs outside the normal range were considered to indicate AMI.


Of 49 patients identified, 47 were consented to enrollment and diagnostic images were obtained in 45 (96%). Fifteen patients (33%) had AMI (six occlusive, nine nonocclusive disease). Among these, 12 (80%) had abnormal DUS velocities. SMA PSV showed a sensitivity of 78.57% [95% confidence interval (CI): 49.2–95.34], a specificity of 64.52% (95% CI: 45.37–80.77), a positive predictive value of 50% (95% CI: 28.22–71.78), and a negative predictive value of 86.96% (95% CI: 66.41–97.22) for AMI. DUS had a sensitivity of 100%, a specificity of 64%, and a negative predictive value of 100% for occlusive AMI. Assessment of celiac artery PSV did not improve diagnostic performance.


In this single-operator pilot study, mesenteric vessel DUS was performed successfully in the Emergency Department, with a high proportion of diagnostic images obtained. A normal SMA PSV was associated with a low risk of occlusive AMI.

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