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A Journal on Internal Medicine

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Minerva Medica 2006 August;97(4):325-45

language: English

Cirrhotic portal hypertension: current and future medical therapy for primari and secondary prevention of variceal bleeding

Laleman W., Nevens F.

Department of Hepatology University Hospital Gasthuisberg, Leuven, Belgium


Portal hypertension (PHT) is the most common complication of chronic liver disease and develops in the vast majority of patients with cirrhosis. It is characterized by an increase of the portal vein pressure, and leads to the development of gastroesophagal varices, ascites, renal dysfunction and hepatic encephalopathy. Over the years, it has become clear that a decrease in portal pressure is not only protective against the risk of variceal (re)bleeding but is also associated with a lower long-term risk of developing other complications and with an improved long-term survival. At present, non-selective b-blockers remain the medical treatment of choice for both primary and secondary prophylaxis. However, recent advances in the knowledge of the pathophysiology of cirrhotic PHT have directed future therapy towards the increased intrahepatic vascular resistance, which in part is determined by an increased hepatic vascular tone. This increased vasculogenic component provides the motivation to the use of therapies aimed at increasing intrahepatic vasorelaxing capacity on the one hand and at antagonizing excessive intrahepatic vasoconstrictor force on the other hand. This review covers current and future developments in the treatment of PHT with regard to primary and secondary prophylaxis.

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