What is portal hypertension?

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Portal hypertension

Portal hypertension is high pressure in the veins that filter blood from the intestines through the liver (portal system of the liver). It may cause problems such as fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity (ascites) or enlarged veins (varices) in the esophagus or stomach.

Cirrhosis is a process that destroys the liver. In the United States, cirrhosis is the most common cause of portal hypertension. Normally, blood from the spleen and intestines is filtered through the liver by way of the portal vein. But when the buildup of scar tissue caused by cirrhosis reduces the flow of blood through the liver, pressure may build up in the portal vein. This causes portal hypertension.

Portal hypertension is different from the high blood pressure (systemic hypertension) that many people develop.

What are surgical shunts for portal hypertension?

Shunt surgeries are designed to redirect the flow of blood or belly fluid through other areas of the body. Types of shunts used include:

Peritoneovenous shunts.

These shunts may reduce fluid buildup in the belly (ascites). They divert the fluid into normal blood circulation.

Portacaval shunts.

These shunts may lower blood pressure in the vein that carries blood to the liver (portal vein). They do this by diverting the flow of blood from the portal vein to the large vein that returns blood to the heart (vena cava).

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