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Br J Surg. 2001 Feb;88(2):165-75.

Portal vein embolization: rationale, technique and future prospects.

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Department of Surgical Oncology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.



Advances in surgery have reduced the mortality rate after major liver resection, but complications resulting from inadequate postresection hepatic size and function remain. Portal vein embolization (PVE) was proposed to induce hypertrophy of the anticipated liver remnant in order to reduce such complications. The techniques, measurement methods and indications for this treatment remain controversial.


A Medline search was performed to identify papers reporting the use of PVE before hepatic resection. Techniques, complications and results are reviewed.


Complications of PVE typically occur in less than 5 per cent of patients. No specific substance (cyanoacrylate, thrombin, coils or absolute alcohol) emerged as superior. The increase in remnant liver volume averages 12 per cent of the total liver. The morbidity rate of resection after treatment is less than 15 per cent and the mortality rate is 6-7 per cent with cirrhosis and 0-6.5 per cent without cirrhosis. Embolization is currently used for patients with a normal liver when the anticipated liver remnant volume is 25 per cent or less of the total liver volume, and for patients with compromised liver function when the liver remnant volume is 40 per cent or less.


This treatment does not increase the risks associated with major liver resection. It may be indicated in selected patients before major resection. Future prospective studies are needed to define more clearly the indications for this evolving technique.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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