Postprandial abdominal pain is a condition involving intense abdominal pain after eating. The pain is triggered by abnormality of the digestive tract where there is not enough blood to function normally. This is due to a condition called as mesenteric atherosclerosis. The condition can progress to a dangerous state such as sepsis and even death if not diagnosed and treated early.
The indications of postprandial abdominal pain tend to vary depending on the extent of limited blood flow in the tissues. The common factor in almost all cases is significant pain while the food is being digested.
Possible causes of postprandial abdominal pain
It is important to note that postprandial abdominal pain might be caused by atherosclerosis affecting the mesenteric arteries.
There are 3 main arteries supplying blood to the digestive tract – celiac artery, superior mesenteric and inferior mesenteric. The condition is typically brought about by blockage to any 2 of these arteries. Abdominal pain is present as the arteries are blocked and the tissues are deprived of blood and the process of digestion is interrupted abruptly. The pain typically begins 20 minutes after a meal. The characteristic feature of the condition is pain that is felt almost at the same time every day after a meal.
- Pain that arises 20 minutes after a meal (this varies from one individual to another)
- Dyspepsia since food is not properly digested
- Nausea along with pain that may or may not be accompanied by vomiting
- Evident weight loss and malnutrition (if vomiting is severe)
Management of postprandial abdominal pain
The treatment is based on the cause of the condition and extent of damage to the tissues. If the condition is due to a bacterial condition, the treatment involves antibiotics.
In case the condition is due to a cardiac condition, the ideal treatment is diet and exercise. It is recommended to eat smaller meals at 2-3 times in a day. It is recommended to avoid habits such as drinking and smoking. In some instances, surgery is suggested depending on the extent of damage since some cases might involve necrosis of the tissues.
If the cause is mesenteric artery ischemia, surgery is needed to bypass the obstructed vessels or removal of the damaged tissues that could no longer be repaired. In some cases, anticoagulants and vasodilators are used along with surgery.