Superior mesenteric artery syndrome and its associated gastrointestinal implications

Njambi Mathenge, Stephen Osiro, Iliana I. Rodriguez, Christian Salib, R. Shane Tubbs, Marios Loukas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The superior mesenteric artery (SMA) syndrome is a rare but potentially life-threatening gastrointestinal condition. Over the years, it has been referenced by several names, the most common of which is Wilkie's syndrome. These numerous terminologies have made it difficult to estimate its true frequency in the general population. Common symptoms associated with this syndrome include intermittent postprandial abdominal pain, nausea, and bilious vomiting. Our review revealed that although it is currently well-defined in the literature, the diagnosis of SMA syndrome remains challenging as other disorders can mimic its presentation. However, CT angiography is currently favored in the literature for diagnosis as it can not only show the narrowed aorto-mesenteric angle and distance, but also the extent of duodenal obstruction. In addition, we found no consensus on the preferred mode of therapy once SMA syndrome is diagnosed. The agreement among authors is that the treatment options should be based on severity of the disease, using conservative measures as the first line of therapy in mild SMA syndrome. Duodenojejunostomy is the preferred surgical approach when conservative management fails, or in severe cases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1244-1252
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Anatomy
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • CT angiography
  • SMA syndrome
  • duodenal compression
  • duodenojejunostomy
  • gastrointestinal emergency


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