Portal hypertension

Portal hypertension is hypertension (high blood pressure) in the portal vein (the large vein that brings the blood from the intestine to the liver).

This leads to new vessels developing from the portal vessels to the general circulation, missing out the liver. One of the liver’s functions is to remove toxins, so bypassing the liver means that toxins are not removed. These new vessels can become engorged with the increased pressure and bleed: at the lower end of the oesophagus (oesophageal varices) or the upper part of the stomach (gastric varices).

The increased portal blood vessel pressure may cause protein-containing (ascitic) fluid from the surface of the liver and intestine to leak into the abdominal cavity (ascites).

Treatment may be with medication (diuretics), paracentesis (needle aspiration of the fluid), or other treatments directed at the cause.

Reviewed 10/05/12

Want to know more?

British Liver Trust portal hypertension information.

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