One of the very first words I heard at diagnosis was the word “Mesentery“. In the news today is the announcement that is now might just be a new organ following accepted findings from research conducted in the University of Limerick Ireland. I always knew it was something which held the small and large intestines in place within the abdomen so like many others, I just thought it was some kind of membrane type structure and I also knew there was some kind of interaction with the peritoneum, another word which I was to become familiar with.
This is an important area for NET patients as many will have mesenteric involvement in their disease. I’ve read reports of a primary mesenteric tumour although it’s mainly a site for secondary disease (metastasis). It’s no surprise when you consider the geography – the small and large intestines are inextricably linked to this new organ. There is pancreatic involvement too. The mesentery contains many lymph nodes (the main place for metastasis for small intestinal NETs and other types) and has important blood vessels adding complexity to surgery. It’s also a place where there’s likely to be fibrotic reactions (desmoplasia) from the excess release of serotonin which can also complicate surgery.
When I check my own records, I can see statements such as “mesenteric disease”, “bulky mesenteric nodes”, “further nodal disease situated on the superior mesenteric artery and vein” and “dense retroperitoneal reaction encircling his aorta and cava from just below the level of the superior mesenteric artery”. When I also look at the post surgical reports, I can see that I had something called a “mesenteric root dissection” which needed a “superior mesenteric vein reconstruction”.
So there you have it, the anatomic description that had been laid down over 100 years of anatomy was incorrect. This organ is far from fragmented and complex. It is simply one continuous structure. According to the article I read, medical students started being taught that the mesentery is a distinct organ and the world’s best-known series of medical textbooks, Gray’s Anatomy, has even been updated to include the new definition. Finally, so what you might be thinking? Here’s a quote from the person who led the work:
“The next step is the function,” Coffey explained. “If you understand the function you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease. Put them all together and you have the field of mesenteric science … the basis for a whole new area of science.”
Thanks for listening
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