Portal vein thrombosis in cirrhosis

Kaiser Raja, Mathew Jacob, Sonal Asthana
Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hepatology 2014, 4 (4): 320-31
Portal vein thrombosis (PVT) is being increasingly recognized in patients with advanced cirrhosis and in those undergoing liver transplantation. Reduced flow in the portal vein is probably responsible for clotting in the spleno-porto-mesenteric venous system. There is also increasing evidence that hypercoagulability occurs in advanced liver disease and contributes to the risk of PVT. Ultrasound based studies have reported a prevalence of PVT in 10-25% of cirrhotic patients without hepatocellular carcinoma. Partial thrombosis of the portal vein is more common and may not have pathophysiological consequences. However, there is high risk of progression of partial PVT to complete PVT that may cause exacerbation of portal hypertension and progression of liver insufficiency. It is thus, essential to accurately diagnose and stage PVT in patients waiting for transplantation and consider anticoagulation therapy. Therapy with low molecular weight heparin and vitamin K antagonists has been shown to achieve complete and partial recanalization in 33-45% and 15-35% of cases respectively. There are however, no guidelines to help determine the dose and therapeutic efficacy of anticoagulation in patients with cirrhosis. Anticoagulation therapy related bleeding is the most feared complication but it appears that the risk of variceal bleeding is more likely to be dependent on portal pressure rather than solely related to coagulation status. TIPS has also been reported to restore patency of the portal vein. Patients with complete PVT currently do not form an absolute contraindication for liver transplantation. Thrombectomy or thromboendovenectomy is possible in more than 75% of patients followed by anatomical end-to-end portal anastomosis. When patency of the portal vein and/or superior mesenteric vein is not achieved, only non-anatomical techniques (reno-portal anastomosis or cavo-portal hemitransposition) can be performed. These techniques, which do not fully reverse portal hypertension, are associated with higher morbidity and mortality risks in the short term.

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