Systematic review: portal vein thrombosis in cirrhosis

E A Tsochatzis, M Senzolo, G Germani, A Gatt, A K Burroughs
Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2010 February 1, 31 (3): 366-74

BACKGROUND: As current imaging techniques in cirrhosis allow detection of asymptomatic portal vein thrombosis during routine ultrasonography, more patients with cirrhosis are diagnosed with portal vein thrombosis. Although a consensus on noncirrhotic extra-hepatic portal vein thrombosis has been published, no such consensus exists for portal vein thrombosis with cirrhosis.

AIM: To perform a systematic review of nonmalignant portal vein thrombosis in cirrhosis in terms of prevalence, pathogenesis, diagnosis, clinical course and management.

METHODS: Studies were identified by a search strategy using MEDLINE and EMBASE.

RESULTS: Portal vein thrombosis is encountered in 10-25% of cirrhotics. In terms of pathophysiology, cirrhosis is no longer considered a hypocoagulable state; rather than a bleeding risk in cirrhosis, various clinical studies support a thrombotic potential. Clinical findings of portal vein thrombosis in cirrhosis vary from asymptomatic disease to a life-threatening condition at first presentation. Optimal management of portal vein thrombosis in cirrhosis is currently not addressed in any consensus publication. Treatment strategies most often include the use of anticoagulation, while thrombectomy and transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunts are considered second-line options.

CONCLUSIONS: Portal vein thrombosis in cirrhosis has many unresolved issues, which are often the critical problems clinicians encounter in their everyday practice. We propose a possible research agenda to address these unresolved issues.

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