Abdominal Radiology

, Volume 44, Issue 9, pp 3188–3194 | Cite as

Superior mesenteric artery syndrome: a radiographic review

  • Emily S. WarnckeEmail author
  • Dorissa L. Gursahaney
  • Margherita Mascolo
  • Elizabeth Dee



To provide a review of the etiology, clinical presentation, and imaging findings of superior mesenteric artery (SMA) syndrome.


A literature review of 24 relevant articles regarding SMA syndrome was performed.


Clinicians and radiologists with a high index of suspicion based on symptomatology may pursue radiologic investigation in the form of upper gastrointestinal (GI) series and contrast-enhanced abdominal computed tomography (CT). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound (US) are less commonly utilized modalities in the work-up of SMA syndrome, but provide imaging alternatives without the use of ionizing radiation. Imaging can assist in diagnosis by demonstrating characteristic findings of reduced aortomesenteric angle, reduced aortomesenteric distance, gastroduodenal distention, bowel caliber narrowing at the takeoff of the superior mesenteric artery from the aorta, as well as delayed gastric emptying or positional obstruction observed with real time with fluoroscopy.


SMA syndrome is a rare disease that can go unrecognized and undiagnosed, exacerbating weight loss in an already significantly malnourished patient population. The diagnosis of SMA syndrome must be based on clinical symptomatology correlated with radiographic information. Once diagnosed, SMA syndrome can be safely treated by conservative measures although occasionally requires invasive intervention in the form of enteral tube placement, percutaneous jejunostomy tube placement, total parenteral nutrition, ligament of Treitz lysis, or duodenojejunostomy.


Superior mesenteric artery syndrome Duodenal obstruction Radiography Tomography X-ray computed Fluoroscopy 



The authors thank Anjuli Cherukuri, MD for the medical illustrations.

Compliance with ethical standards


There are no relevant sources of funding or financial interest to disclose.

Conflicts of interest

There are no potential conflicts of interest. The retrospectively collected images were obtained in the course of treatment and have been anonymized with no personal identifying information.

Ethical approval

The article was approved by the Colorado Multiple Institutional Review Board. This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Radiology, School of MedicineUniversity of ColoradoAuroraUSA
  2. 2.Alsana: An Eating Recovery CommunityThousand OaksUSA
  3. 3.Department of RadiologyDenver Health Medical CenterDenverUSA

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