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Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009 Feb;21(2):206-13. doi: 10.1097/MEG.0b013e3283060ee8.

Symptomatic portal biliopathy: a single centre experience from the UK.

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  • 1Liver Research Laboratory, Institute of Biomedical Research, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK.



Biliary obstruction as a consequence of portal biliopathy, because of extrahepatic portal vein occlusion is an uncommon cause of biliary disease in the western world. We reviewed all patients presenting to the Regional Liver Transplant Unit in Birmingham, UK with symptomatic portal biliopathy between 1992 and 2005 and report the presentation, investigation, management and outcome of these complex patients.


Thirteen patients with symptomatic portal biliopathy were followed up for a median of 2 years (range 1-18 years). Jaundice was the presenting feature in all cases and was associated with bile duct stones or debris in 77% (10 of 13) of cases. Successful treatment of biliary problems was achieved by biliary decompression in six cases (metallic stent=three, plastic stent=one, combined procedure=one and sphincterectomy=one) and portal decompression in three cases (transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt=two, meso-caval shunt=one). Successful biliary drainage could not be achieved endoscopically or by portal decompression in one case that was accepted for combined liver and small bowel transplantation. Three patients had spontaneous resolution without recurrence over the follow-up period. Ten patients (77%) experienced gastrointestinal bleeding. Two deaths over the follow-up period occurred; both were associated with portal hypertensive bleeding.


Endoscopic management (sphincterectomy and stone extraction or stent insertion) is effective initial therapy for patients with symptomatic portal biliopathy. In the case of persistent biliary obstruction porto-systemic shunting (transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt or surgical) should be considered, however, the extent of vascular thrombosis precludes this in most cases.

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