Portal hypertension

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If the pressure in the portal venous system is greater than 12 mmHg then portal hypertension exists. The commonest cause of this in Western countries is alcoholic cirrhosis causing obstruction to portal venous flow, but numerous other causes are recognised and are classified (as for jaundice) into pre-hepatic, hepatic, and post-hepatic (Table 12.12). The portal venous system has been described (see Anatomy), and in portal hypertension the sites of portal-systemic communication open up, commonly resulting in oesophageal and gastric varices that can bleed profusely. The other major complication of portal hypertension is ascites. The management of variceal bleeding has been described (see Upper GI Bleeding), and includes injection sclerotherapy, endoscopic banding, TIPSS, and oesophageal transection. Rarely, splenic vein thrombosis results in left-sided portal hypertension, leading to splenomegaly and gastric varices. Splenectomy with division of the short gastric vessels is an effective treatment for this situation.

Ascites is mostly managed medically, with a low-sodium diet and diuretics, though paracentesis is used to ease the discomfort of tense ascites, and may be used repeatedly if

Table 12.12. Classification of portal hypertension.




Portal vein thrombosis

Splenic vein thrombosis Extrinsic compression





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Blood Pressure Health

Blood Pressure Health

Your heart pumps blood throughout your body using a network of tubing called arteries and capillaries which return the blood back to your heart via your veins. Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart beats.Learn more...

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