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What Are the Mesenteric Lymph Nodes?

Patient having CT scan.
Mesenteric lymphadenitis can cause pain in the abdomen.
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  • Written By: Katriena Knights
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 11 July 2014
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Mesenteric lymph nodes are the 100 to 150 lymph nodes that lie within the mesentery, a double-layered section of peritoneum, the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity. Peritoneum consists of connective tissue and mesothelium, a specialized membrane that produces a lubricating fluid. This fluid allows organs to move easily within the abdominal cavity. Mesothelium is best known as a part of the lungs, where it can be affected by a particular form of cancer called mesothelioma. Mesentery membranes not only help protect the internal organs but also play a key role in ensuring sufficient oxygen and nutrients are delivered.

Located in the lower abdomen, the mesenteric lymph nodes lie throughout the various intestinal loops and close to the superior mesenteric artery, one of the major blood vessels that supplies the intestines and lower abdominal organs with blood and oxygen. Part of the lymphatic system, these lymph nodes are a vital part of the immune system that helps the body fight disease. The lymphatic system itself spreads throughout the entire body, carrying specialized cells that trigger immune system responses when necessary.

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Under certain circumstances, the mesenteric lymph nodes can become inflamed. This condition is referred to as mesenteric lymphadenitis, and it can stem from several causes. One common cause is a general infection of the large intestine or other parts of the intestinal system from bacterial, viral or parasitic causes. When infection sets in, the lymph nodes often respond by becoming enlarged as they work to fight off the infection. Abscesses in the lower abdomen or peritonitis, which is an infection of the peritoneum, can also cause the mesenteric lymph nodes to swell.

Symptoms of mesenteric lymphadenitis are similar to those of appendicitis, including abdominal pain and fever. Unlike appendicitis, this type of inflammation of the mesenteric lymph nodes usually will resolve on its own without invasive treatment or surgery. Rarely serious, this problem is seen most often in children in conjunction with an intestinal infection.

Another less common and much more serious cause of inflammation of the mesenteric lymph nodes is cancer. Several kinds of cancer can lead to mesenteric lymphadenitis, including cancer that is centered in the gastrointestinal tract and more widespread cancers that affect all of the lymph nodes, such as lymphoma. Enlarged mesenteric lymph nodes are often discovered during abdominal CAT scans. If the cause of the inflammation is not immediately apparent, a biopsy might be necessary to diagnose or rule out cancer.

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Discuss this Article

anon319121
Post 5

I had a CT guided biopsy done of lymph nodes last week. They gave me mild sedation so I didn't feel too much. They went in from my back, so I was a little sore for a few days.

anon160006
Post 3

I have to have a biopsy done on my mesenteric lymph nodes, anybody let me know what to expect. --Alan

AngelChaser
Post 2

@JillT – there are three possible ways the biopsy might be performed. The first is to stick a very fine needle into the lymph node to remove a small sample of cells to look at. I don’t know how big the lymph node is that the doctor wants to take a sample of, but this type of biopsy is only done on big lymph nodes. The second type of biopsy is called a core needle biopsy, which uses a needle that has a special tip on it. The needle goes through the skin to the lymph node and takes a tissue sample that’s about the size of a pencil lead. If the doctor wants to take a large sample of lymph node, or the entire lymph node, he’ll do an open biopsy, which makes a cut in the skin and removes the lymph node. This procedure can also be called a lymph node dissection if more than one lymph node is taken. Prior to the procedure, be sure to let your doctor know if you are taking any medicines, are allergic to any medicines including anesthetics, are allergic to latex, have any bleeding problems or are taking blood thinners, or if you are or think you might be pregnant.

JillT
Post 1

I’m glad I found this article, I actually have to have a biopsy done on my mesenteric lymph nodes soon. Can anyone tell me what to expect during this procedure?

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