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Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2010 Sep;39(3):681-95. doi: 10.1016/j.gtc.2010.08.015.

Clinical pharmacology of portal hypertension.

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Section of Digestive Diseases, Yale University School of Medicine, 333 Cedar Street, LMP 1080, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Portal hypertension is an increase in pressure in the portal vein and its tributaries. It is defined as a portal pressure gradient (the difference in pressure between the portal vein and the hepatic veins) greater than 5 mm Hg. Although this gradient defines portal hypertension, a gradient of 10 mm Hg or greater defines clinically significant portal hypertension, because this pressure gradient predicts the development of varices, decompensation of cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. The most direct consequence of portal hypertension is the development of gastroesophageal varices that may rupture and lead to the development of variceal hemorrhage. This article reviews the pathophysiologic bases of the different pharmacologic treatments for portal hypertension in patients with cirrhosis and places them in the context of the natural history of varices and variceal hemorrhage.

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