Portal hypertensive gastropathy is a vascular disorder of the gastric mucosa distinguished by ectasia of the mucosal capillaries and submucosal veins without inflammation. During 1988 to 1993,12 patients with biopsy-proven cirrhosis (10 alcoholic, 2 posthepatitic) were evaluated and treated prospectively by portacaval shunt for active bleeding from severe portal hypertensive gastropathy. Eleven patients had been hospitalized for bleeding three to nine times previously, and one was bleeding uncontrollably for the first time. Requirement for blood transfusions ranged from 11 to 39 units cumulatively, of which 8 to 30 units were required specifically to replace blood lost from portal hypertensive gastropathy. Admission findings were ascites in 9 patients, jaundice in 8, severe muscle wasting in 10, hyperdynamic state in 9. Child's risk class was C in 7, B in 4, A in 1. Ten of the 12 patients had previously received repetitive endoscopic sclerotherapy for esophageal varices, which has been reported to precipitate portal hypertensive gastropathy. Eight patients had failed propranolol therapy for bleeding. Portacaval shunt was performed emergently in 11 patients and electively in 1, and permanently stopped bleeding in all by reducing the mean portal vein-inferior vena cava pressure gradient from 251 to 16 mm saline. There were no operative deaths, and two unrelated late deaths after 13 and 24 months. During 1 to 6.75 years of follow-up, all shunts remained patent by ultrasonography, the gastric mucosa reverted to normal on serial endoscopy, and there was no gastrointestinal bleeding. Recurrent portal-systemic encephalopathy developed in only 8% of patients. Quality of life was generally good. It is concluded that portacaval shunt provides definitive treatment of bleeding portal hypertensive gastropathy by eliminating the underlying cause, and makes possible prolonged survival with an acceptable quality of life.
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