Portal hypertension is an increase in the blood pressure within the portal vein, which carries blood from the stomach, intestine, spleen and pancreas to the liver. Scarring in the liver (cirrhosis) and blood clots (thrombosis) in the portal vein are common causes of portal hypertension.

Overview and Symptoms
Increased pressure in the portal vein may lead to the development of large, swollen veins within the esophagus, stomach or rectum. The veins can rupture and bleed, resulting in potentially life-threatening complications.

The most common cause of portal hypertension is cirrhosis of the liver. In cirrhosis, the scar tissue blocks the flow of blood through the liver.

In some cases, patients with portal hypertension can develop accumulation of fluid in the abdomen known as ascites. Ascites can sometimes be managed by changes to diet and use of medications. However, sometimes patients with ascites and cirrhosis can develop hepatorenal syndrome, a type of progressive kidney failure seen in people with severe liver damage, most often caused by cirrhosis. As the kidneys stop functioning, toxins begin to build up in the body. Eventually, this leads to liver failure.

Treatment at BIDMC

Your doctor will work with you to manage portal hypertension. Medications can sometimes help reduce increased blood pressure in the portal vein. There are also a variety of endoscopic and radiological procedures that can help.

Physicians at the Liver Center at BIDMC are experts in portal hypertension management, in collaboration with the Transplant Institute and Interventional Radiology.

Liver Center

BIDMC's Liver Center brings together an exceptional team of multidisciplinary providers to offer personalized care and advanced treatment options to patients with a variety of liver conditions.

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