Portal vein thrombosis in the adult: Surgical implications in an era of dynamic imaging

Hasan Alam, Donald Kim, Haydee Provido, John Kirkpatrick*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Extrahepatic portal vein thrombosis (EHPVT) is the leading cause of variceal hemorrhage in patients with healthy livers; however, in an era of dynamic imaging, the incidental discovery of EHPVT places a special burden on the surgeon to understand the surgical implications of the disease in this setting. During the period 1989 to 1995, 23 patients (12 males and 11 females) were found to have EHPVT. In 20 (87%), this was an unexpected finding on ultrasound (11 of 23), abdominal CT scan (9 of 23), or both (9 of 23). In two patients, the diagnosis was suspected and confirmed with angiography, whereas in the other, the lesion was discovered at surgery. Only seven (30%) had hemorrhage as a presenting complaint. More typically (61%), abdominal pain alone or pain with sepsis was the indication for evaluation. In 20 patients (87%), there was an identifiable etiology for the EHPVT. A total of 15 operations were performed on 12 patients (52%), in 7 (4, variceal hemorrhage, and 3, bowel ischemia) as a direct consequence of the EHPVT and in five, for conditions not directly related to the EHPVT. Three of the 23 patients (13%) died, two (17%) following surgery and one (9%) from advanced malignant disease. No patients with hemorrhage (seven), even those who required a shunt for decompression (three) or devascularization (one), died. We found that the diagnosis of EHPVT is usually not related to variceal hemorrhage, but rather, abdominal symptoms that serve as an indication for the imaging study. Three subsets of patients emerged: (1) those requiring no surgery (11 patients), (2) those requiring surgery related to hemorrhage (4 patients), and (3) those requiring surgery for conditions other than varices (8 patients). In any of these circumstances, mortality (13%) was related to the underlying disease process rather than EHPVT. Given the earlier recognition of EHPVT, the natural history of the disease has been altered, with outcome reflecting the underlying disease rather than the sequelae of portal hypertension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)681-685
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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