Management of portal vein thrombosis in cirrhosis: an update

Andrea Mancuso
European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology 2016, 28 (7): 739-43

BACKGROUND: Portal vein thrombosis (PVT) is a complication of cirrhosis. However, whether PVT worsens cirrhosis outcome is a debated issue.

AIM: To report an update on the management of PVT.

METHODS: A review was performed on the outcome, prevention, and treatment of PVT.

RESULTS: Some studies suggest that PVT could worsen the rate of hepatic decompensation and survival of cirrhosis, whereas others report a non-negative impact of PVT in the outcome of cirrhosis. Therefore, the prognostic value of PVT in cirrhosis remains a gray zone. One single randomized-controlled trial reported that enoxaparin could prevent PVT, delay the occurrence of hepatic decompensation, and improve survival. However, no further study data confirmed this assumption and the issue is not actually generalizable. Numerous studies report that anticoagulation determines a relatively high rate of portal vein recanalization in cirrhotics PVT. However, further data are warranted to confirm the risk-to-benefit of anticoagulation, especially bleeding. Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) has been reported to be effective as a treatment of PVT in cirrhosis, with the advantage of avoiding the risk of bleeding linked to anticoagulation. However, there are no data comparing TIPS with anticoagulation as a treatment of PVT in cirrhosis. Furthermore, there is no evidence on whether both anticoagulation and TIPS improve survival.

CONCLUSION: It is uncertain whether PVT affects cirrhosis outcome. Further data are needed to weigh the risk/benefit ratio of enoxaparin for the prevention of PVT in cirrhosis. Anticoagulation or TIPS should probably be indicated in liver transplantation candidates, but avoided in patients not suitable for liver transplantation and with an otherwise poor prognosis. Future studies should evaluate which subgroup of cirrhotics with PVT may benefit from treatment. Management of PVT in cirrhosis should be personalized.

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