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World J Surg. 2011 Nov;35(11):2510-20. doi: 10.1007/s00268-011-1198-0.

Management of acute non-cirrhotic and non-malignant portal vein thrombosis: a systematic review.

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Department of Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery, University Hospitals of Leicester, Leicester, LE5 4PW, UK.



No definitive evidence exists regarding the treatment of acute portal vein thrombosis (PVT). Treatment modalities described include conservative management, anticoagulation, thrombolysis, and thrombectomy. This review examines the impact of such treatment, its outcomes, and the complications resulting from the resultant portal hypertension.


A Medline literature search was undertaken using the keywords portal vein thrombosis, anticoagulation, thrombolysis, and thrombectomy. The primary end point was portal vein recanalization. Secondary outcome measures were morbidity and the development of portal hypertension and its sequelae, including variceal bleeding. Data from articles relating to PVT in the context of cirrhosis, malignancy, or liver transplant were excluded.


Early systemic anticoagulation results in complete portal vein recanalization in 38.3% of cases and partial recanalization in 14.0% of cases. Spontaneous recanalization without treatment can only be expected in up to 16.7% of patients. Frequently this is only when associated with self-limiting underlying pathology and/or minimal thrombus extension. Thrombolysis can be associated with major complications in up to 60% of patients.


The natural history of acute PVT is poorly described. Spontaneous resolution of acute portal vein thrombosis is uncommon. Early anticoagulation results in a satisfactory rate of recanalization with minimal procedure-associated morbidity. Thrombolysis should be used with caution and only considered if the disease is progressive and signs of mesenteric ischemia are present. Further well-designed trials with precise outcome reporting are needed to improve our understanding of the disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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