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ESSENTIALS OF DIAGNOSIS

  • Splenomegaly or upper gastrointestinal bleeding from esophageal or gastric varices in patients without liver disease.

  • Portal vein thrombosis complicating cirrhosis.

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

Causes of noncirrhotic portal hypertension include extrahepatic portal vein obstruction (portal vein thrombosis often with cavernous transformation [portal cavernoma]), splenic vein obstruction (presenting as gastric varices without esophageal varices), schistosomiasis, nodular regenerative hyperplasia, and arterial-portal vein fistula. Idiopathic noncirrhotic portal hypertension is common in India and has been attributed to chronic infections, exposure to medications or toxins, prothrombotic disorders, immunologic disorders, and genetic disorders that result in obliterative vascular lesions in the liver. It is rare in Western countries, where increased mortality is attributable to associated disorders and older age. Portal vein thrombosis may occur in 10–25% of patients with cirrhosis, is associated with the severity of the liver disease, and may be associated with hepatocellular carcinoma but not with increased mortality. Other risk factors are oral contraceptive use, pregnancy, chronic inflammatory diseases (including pancreatitis), injury to the portal venous system (including surgery), other malignancies, and treatment of thrombocytopenia with eltrombopag. Portal vein thrombosis may be classified as type 1, involving the main portal vein; type 2, involving one (2a) or both (2b) branches of the portal vein; or type 3, involving the trunk and branches of the portal vein. Additional descriptors are occlusive or nonocculsive; recent or chronic; extent (eg, into the mesenteric vein); and nature of any underlying liver disease. Splenic vein thrombosis may complicate pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer. Pylephlebitis (septic thrombophlebitis of the portal vein) may complicate intra-abdominal inflammatory disorders such as appendicitis or diverticulitis, particularly when anaerobic organisms (especially Bacteroides species) are involved. Nodular regenerative hyperplasia results from altered hepatic perfusion and can be associated with collagen vascular diseases; myeloproliferative disorders; and drugs, including azathioprine, 5-fluorouracil, and oxaliplatin; an association with a mutation in the telomerase gene has been reported. In patients infected with HIV, long-term use of didanosine and use of a combination of didanosine and stavudine have been reported to account for some cases of noncirrhotic portal hypertension often due to nodular regenerative hyperplasia; genetic factors may play a role. The term “obliterative portal venopathy” is used to describe primary occlusion of intrahepatic portal veins in the absence of cirrhosis, inflammation, or hepatic neoplasia.

CLINICAL FINDINGS

A. Symptoms and Signs

Acute portal vein thrombosis usually causes abdominal pain. Aside from splenomegaly, the physical findings are not remarkable, although hepatic decompensation can follow severe gastrointestinal bleeding or a concurrent hepatic disorder, and intestinal infarction may occur when portal vein thrombosis is associated with mesenteric venous thrombosis. Ascites may occur in 25% of persons with noncirrhotic portal hypertension. Covert hepatic encephalopathy is reported to be common in patients with noncirrhotic portal vein thrombosis.

B. Laboratory Findings

Liver biochemical test levels are usually normal, but there may be findings of hypersplenism. An underlying ...

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