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Clin Anat. 2008 Mar;21(2):147-57.

The clinical anatomy of congenital portosystemic venous shunts.

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Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology, Otago School of Medical Sciences, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


Congenital portosystemic venous shunts are rare. Their gross anatomy has not been well defined. Four different varieties of congenital portosystemic venous shunts are described in six children seen during a 10-year period, focusing on the anatomy of the shunt as determined by imaging studies and surgery. A detailed review of the literature indicates that congenital portosystemic venous shunts are best classified as: extrahepatic or intrahepatic. Extrahepatic shunts may be further subdivided into portocaval shunts (type 1 end-to-side and type 2 side-to-side) and others. Intrahepatic shunts are due to an abnormal intrahepatic connection between the portal vein and hepatic vein/inferior vena cava or a persistent patent ductus venosus. Additional congenital anomalies, particularly cardiac malformations, may be associated with any type. Some congenital intrahepatic portosystemic venous shunts close spontaneously in infancy; all other congenital portosystemic venous shunts tend to remain patent. To a variable extent, depending largely on the volume and duration of the shunt, affected individuals are at risk of developing hepatic encephalopathy and/or an intrahepatic tumor. The key to understanding the pathogenesis of these shunts lies in the normal developmental mechanisms underlying the formation of the portal vein and inferior vena cava in the embryo.

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