Children's Hospital Colorado
Pediatric Surgery

Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome in Children

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What is SMA syndrome?

The superior mesenteric artery (SMA) is a major blood vessel that supplies blood to part of the small intestine and colon (large intestine). It crosses over a part of the small intestine called the duodenum. Sometimes the duodenum gets trapped between the superior mesenteric artery and the aorta (the body’s largest artery), which can cause an obstruction of the small bowel. This is known as superior mesenteric artery syndrome.

What causes superior mesenteric artery syndrome?

The cause of SMA syndrome is not completely understood, but doctors have identified some patterns in people who have it. Those with SMA syndrome tend to have:

  • Lordosis (lower curvature of the spine)
  • Decreased muscle tone in the abdomen
  • Rapid weight loss from things like bariatric surgery, nutritional deficiency or cancer

Who gets superior mesenteric artery syndrome?

It’s hard to predict who will get SMA syndrome. It does not affect certain groups of people more than others.

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