Sclerosing mesenteritis is a rare spectrum of disease characterized by degeneration (necrosis), inflammation and scarring (fibrosis) of fatty (adipose) tissue of the mesentery. The mesentery is a fold of tissue of the peritoneum that supports and attaches the intestines to the wall of the abdomen. The peritoneum is the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and covers the abdominal organs. The small bowel mesentery is most often affected. The symptoms of sclerosing mesenteritis can vary greatly from one person to another and can include a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting, bloating, loss of appetite and diarrhea or constipation. Non-gastrointestinal symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, night sweats and fever. Some individuals do not develop any noticeable symptoms (asymptomatic). The exact cause of sclerosing mesenteritis is unknown.
Sclerosing mesenteritis was first described in the medical literature in 1924 as retractile mesenteritis. Since that time numerous, varied names have been used to describe the condition. Three prominent names that have been used in the literature are retractile mesenteritis, mesenteric panniculitis, and mesenteric lipodystrohpy. These three names denote the predominant feature in a particular case. Sclerosing mesenteritis or retractile mesenteritis refers to a predominance of fibrosis; mesenteric panniculitis refers to a predominance of inflammation; and mesenteric lipodystrophy refers to a predominance fat necrosis. Because of the presence of some degree of fibrosis, many physicians advocate sclerosing mesenteritis as the best name for this spectrum of disease.
Additional names that have been used for this disorder include mesenteric fibrosis, mesenteric sclerosis, liposclerotic mesenteritis, mesenteric Pfeifer-Weber-Christian disease, mesenteric lipogranuloma, and xanthogranulomatous mesenteritis.