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Celiac Artery Compression Syndrome - Symptoms

celiac artery compression syndrome

Celiac artery compression syndrome is a rare abdominal disorder that goes by many names, including celiac axis syndrome, median arcuate ligament syndrome and Dunbar syndrome. The celiac artery runs from the stomach along the border of the small intestine, providing blood flow to these areas. It can become compressed by the median arcuate ligament that is attached to the diaphragm. When this happens, blood flow to the abdomen may be decreased when patients breathe out.

Unexplained weight loss and abdominal pain

Two symptoms are most commonly associated with CACS:
  • abdominal pain after meals
  • weight loss
The most common symptom associated with CACS is abdominal pain after eating. Many patients experience severe pain in the upper abdomen after a large meal, though small meals may also cause problems. Some people report that the pain worsens when they breathe out. Patients experiencing severe pain after eating often begin avoiding meals or cutting back on food to prevent this problem. According to Dr. Sherry Scovell in, this often results in significant weight loss, sometimes more than 20 pounds for some people. Some CACS patients also report nausea and vomiting after a meal that may contribute to weight loss.

One sign of CACS found when the patient is examined by a health care provider is a turbulent blood vessel in the abdomen known as a bruit. This can be found by listening to the abdomen with a stethoscope.

Treatment of CACS

According to Okkes Kirahan in an article on CACS, surgery is the first-line treatment. The median arcuate ligament is divided to release pressure on the celiac artery. Dr. Scovell reports about 81% of patients are cured of their abdominal pain and 67% are able to regain lost weight after surgery. However, surgery does not always fix the problem. People most likely to respond to surgery are:
  • between 40 and 60 years old
  • have abdominal pain after eating
  • have lost more than 20 pounds due to CACS

Although diagnosis of CACS may be difficult, patients should discuss any unusual symptoms with their healthcare provider. Anyone experiencing unexplained weight loss or abdominal pain should schedule an appointment for evaluation.

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