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Portal Hypertension

Portal hypertension is high blood pressure in the veins that filter blood from the intestines through the liver (portal system of the liver). It may cause complications such as fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity (ascites) or enlarged veins (varices) in the esophagus or stomach.

Cirrhosis is a process that destroys the liver. In the United States, cirrhosis is the most common cause of portal hypertension. Normally, blood from the spleen and intestines is filtered through the liver by way of the portal vein. But when the buildup of scar tissue caused by cirrhosis reduces the flow of blood through the liver, pressure may build up in the portal vein. This causes portal hypertension.

Portal hypertension is different from the high blood pressure (systemic hypertension) that many people develop as they get older.

Last Revised: January 17, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & W. Thomas London, MD - Hepatology

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