The treatment of portal hypertension in children has undergone considerable evolution in the past decade. The treatment offered depends on the cause of the hypertension and the underlying health of the liver. The diagnosis of portal hypertension often can be made by the history and physical examination. Upper gastrointestinal bleeding in the presence of splenic enlargement is pathognomonic for portal hypertension. Bleeding and hypersplenism are the principal symptoms. Treatment of bleeding starts with confirming the diagnosis with esophageal and gastric endoscopy. The patient is admitted to an intensive care unit and started on intravenous octreotide. Banding or sclerosis of esophageal varices will result in cessation of the bleeding but not a permanent cure. A careful investigation for the cause of the portal hypertension should be done. This includes imaging studies of intra-abdominal arteries and veins, a liver biopsy, and liver function tests, including coagulation studies. For patients with extrahepatic portal vein thrombosis, early consideration should be given to surgical treatment with a meso-Rex bypass. Patients with liver disease should be treated for the underlying disorder and undergo regular endoscopic monitoring for recurrence of varices. Patients with well-compensated cirrhosis should be considered for selective surgical shunting, and those with advanced disease for liver transplantation. The benefit of long-term beta blockers in children has not been proven by clinical trials.
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