Abu Dhabi: Woman who struggled with 'fear of food' saved in high-risk surgery

'The patient probably had one of the most blocked arteries I have ever seen,' says doctor

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A Staff Reporter

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Wam file photo
Wam file photo

Published: Sat 26 Nov 2022, 6:15 PM

Last updated: Sat 26 Nov 2022, 7:24 PM

An Emirati woman who had been avoiding meals because of her 'fear of food' has finally found treatment, thanks to a multidisciplinary team of doctors in Abu Dhabi.

The patient refused any food because of the intense pain she felt within a few minutes of eating.


It was found that she was suffering from mesenteric angina, which occurs when blocked or narrowed arteries restrict blood flow to the small intestines, causing severe abdominal pain, nausea, and fever.

Then, she developed something called ‘food fear’, which occurs when patients want to avoid food because they anticipate pain after eating.


As soon as patients smell food, their guts get ready to eat, but because they do not have enough blood supply to the gut, they experience acute pain. The condition usually leads to unintentional weight loss.

However, this patient had lost a significant amount of weight, prompting her to consult the specialists at the Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC).

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“Mesenteric angina is like angina but for the gut, and in this patient’s case, it was critical. Within a week, she would have come with a dead gut. Unfortunately, many people suffer from the same condition, but they are diagnosed late, as it can be tricky to identify what is causing the pain at first, and they are, therefore, malnourished,” said Dr Mohamed Baguneid, consultant and chair of the vascular surgery division.

“Many people seek treatment at later stages and present with gangrene (death of body tissue due to a lack of blood flow) of the gut because they didn’t get the right treatment earlier. Gangrene of the gut is associated with a high mortality rate of 50 per cent.”

A multidisciplinary team consisting of a dietitian, anaesthetist, vascular surgeon, and vascular interventional radiologist was brought on board to help with the treatment. Prior to the surgery, specialised scans and ultrasounds were conducted to look at the gut arteries, which is a complex process.

Dr Baguneid along with vascular interventional radiologists conducted the surgery in SSMC’s advanced hybrid theatre suite. The high-risk procedure took around three hours, where they deployed a stent into one of the patient’s bowel arteries through her arm artery.

“The patient probably had one of the most calcified or blocked arteries I have ever seen. We performed an open surgery and stenting at the same time, thanks to the sterile environment of our state-of-the-art hybrid theatre suite, which not many facilities in the region have. The only cut the patient has from the surgery is on her elbow. The patient is now doing very well and on the road to recovery.”

The patient was discharged around two days post-procedure. The dietitian is now helping her overcome her food fear and assisting in managing her diet after the operation.



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