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In medicine (gastroenterology), angiodysplasia is a small vascular malformation of the gut. It is a common cause of otherwise unexplained gastrointestinal bleeding and anemia. Lesions are often multiple, and frequently involve the cecum or ascending colon, although they can occur at other places. Treatment may be with endoscopic interventions, medication, or occasionally surgery.
Additional recommended knowledge
Signs and symptoms
Although some cases present with black, tarry stool (melena), the blood loss can be subtle, with the anemia symptoms predominating. Fecal occult blood testing is positive when bleeding is active. If bleeding is intermittent the test may be negative at times.
Diagnosis of angiodysplasia is often accomplished with endoscopy, either colonoscopy or esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). Although the lesions can be notoriously hard to find, the patient usually is diagnosed by endoscopy. A new technique, pill enteroscopy, has been a major advance in diagnosis. With this technique a pill that contains a video camera and radio transmitter is swallowed, and pictures of the small intestine are sent to a receiver worn by the patient. In cases with negative endoscopic findings and high clinical suspicion, selective angiography of the mesenteric arteries is sometimes necessary.
Although angiodysplasia is probably quite common, the risk of bleeding is increased in disorders of coagulation. A classic association is Heyde's syndrome (coincidence of aortic valve stenosis and bleeding from angiodysplasia). In this disorder, von Willebrand factor (vWF) is proteolysed due to high shear stress in the highly turbulent blood flow around the aortic valve. vWF is most active in vascular beds with high shear stress, including angiodysplasias, and deficiency of vWF increases the bleeding risk from such lesions.
Warkentin et al argue that apart from aortic valve stenosis, some other conditions that feature high shear stress might also increase the risk of bleeding from angiodysplasia.
If the anemia is severe, blood transfusion is required before any other intervention is considered. Endoscopic treatment is an initial possibility, where cautery or argon plasma coagulation (APC) laser treatment is applied through the endoscope. Resection of the affected part of the bowel may be needed. However, the lesions may be widespread, making such treatment impractical. Embolisation through angiography is occasionally contemplated with severely bleeding lesions that cannot be visualised on colonoscopy.
If the bleeding is from multiple or inaccessible sites, systemic therapy with medication may be necessary. First-line options include the antifibrinolytics tranexamic acid or aminocaproic acid. Estrogens can be used to stop bleeding from angiodysplasia. Estrogens cause mild hypercoaguability of the blood. Estrogen side effects can be dangerous and unpleasant in both sexes. Changes in voice and breast swelling is bothersome in men, but older women often report improvement of libido and perimenopausal symptoms. (The worries about hormone replacement therapy/HRT, however, apply here as well.)
In severe cases or cases not responsive to either endoscopic or medical treatment, surgery may be necessary to arrest the bleeding.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Angiodysplasia". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|