What’s new in healthcare: Mesentery is Now an Organ

Previously thought to be just a few fragmented structures in the digestive system, the mesentery has now been classified as a single and continuous organ. Scientists have realized that this organ, which connects the intestine to the abdomen, had been hiding in plain sight in our digestive system this whole time.

Mesentery as an organ

In a new study, Dr. J. Calvin Coffey, who is the foundation chair of surgery at the University of Limerick, has established the anatomy and structure of the mesentery, using images and compiling research to show that the organ’s continuity can be seen only when it’s exposed in a certain way.

Classic anatomic teaching, which spoke about multiple separate mesenteries, was incorrect, and that the mesentery associated with the small and large bowel were in actual fact one substantive structure,” Coffey said.

Carl Toldt, has previously and accurately described the presence of the mesentery in 1878, however, his study was overlooked. And during that time, it were Treves’ findings which supported the statements of Henry Gray, who mentioned multiple mesenteries in the 1858 first edition of his book “Gray’s Anatomy,” which is considered as the go-to medical textbook for students around the world.

Function still unclear

Although researchers know that the mesentery plays an important role in the intestinal, vascular, endocrine, cardiovascular and immunological systems, more research is needed to determine the extent of those roles.

Coffey pointed out that while the mesentery’s structure is known, its function is not.

“Although its function is still unclear, the discovery opens up “a whole new area of science,” he says.

“When we approach it like every other organ, we can categorize abdominal disease in terms of this organ.  Now we have established anatomy and the structure. The next step is the function. 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,” he adds.


“There are a lot of diseases that we are stalled on, and we need to refresh our approach to these diseases. Now that we’ve clarified its structure, we can systematically examine it. We’re at a very exciting place right now,” Coffeysays.

“Since we now know the anatomy of the mesentery, we also have a better understanding of the mesentery associated with the appendix [mesoappendix]. The mesoappendix extends from the undersurface of the mesentery in the region where the small intestine continues as the right colon,” he adds.

The research has been published in The Lancet medical journal and right after its reclassification, medical students are now being taught that the mesentery is a distinct organ.


Liane Clores, RN MAN

Currently an Intensive Care Unit nurse, pursuing a degree in Master of Arts in Nursing Major in Nursing Service Administration. Has been a contributor of Student Nurses Quarterly, Vox Populi, The Hillside Echo and the Voice of Nightingale publications. Other experience include: Medical-Surgical, Pediatric, Obstetric, Emergency and Recovery Room Nursing.

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