Definition and also Etiology

Karin B. Cesario, MDAnuja Choure, MDKunjam Modha, MDWilliam D. Carey, MD

Varices room dilated submucosal veins, most frequently detected in the distal stomach or proximal stomach. Varices are associated with portal hypertension of any kind of cause including presinusoidal (portal vein thrombosis), sinusoidal (cirrhosis) and postsinusoidal (Budd Chiari syndrome) causes the commonest being cirrhosis. Despite advances in treatment over the critical decade, variceal hemorrhage is associated with a mortality that at least 20% at 6 weeks.

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Next: Prevalence


Gastroesophageal varices are present in approximately 50% the patients through cirrhosis. Over there is a great correlation v the severity the liver disease; while just 40% of child A patients have varices, they room seen in 85% of boy C patients. Gastric varices are much less prevalent, developing in 5% to 33% of these patients. Variceal hemorrhage wake up at a yearly rate of 5% come 15%. The most essential predictor the hemorrhage is the dimension of varices; the larges varices room at highest risk the bleeding. Various other predictors of hemorrhage room decompensated cirrhosis (Child B/C) and also the endoscopic presence of red wale marks.

Previous: definition and EtiologyNext: Pathophysiology


In cirrhosis, portal pressure initially rise as a consequence of resistance come blood flow within the liver. This resistance is due greatly to fibrous tissue and also regenerative nodules in the hepatic parenchyma. In addition to this structural resistance, over there is intrahepatic vasoconstriction. This is believed to be due to decreased production that endogenous nitric oxide.

However, portal hypertension occurs despite the compensatory formation of collaterals because that 2 reasons: (1) rise in portal venous inflow that results from splanchnic arteriolar vasodilatation and (2) insufficient portal decompression with collaterals as these have actually a higher resistance 보다 that the the normal liver.

Varices are portosystemic collaterals that type after pre-existing vascular channels are dilated by portal hypertension. Dilation generally is clinically far-ranging once the hepatic venous pressure gradient (HVPG) is elevated over 12mm Hg (normal 3-5mm Hg). The HVPG is identified as the gradient between the wedged hepatic venous pressure (WHVP) and also the totally free hepatic venous pressure. The WHVP is measured by a threading a catheter down with the jugular vein right into a hepatic vein and wedging it right into a smaller sized branch.

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Signs and Symptoms

Signs and also Symptoms

Nonbleeding varices are usually asymptomatic. When varices room bleeding, patients classically current with symptom of an upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage together at hematemesis, i of black or bloody stools, lightheadedness, or diminished urination. Associated signs of variceal hemorrhage incorporate decompensated liver function manifested as jaundice, hepatic encephalopathy, worsened or new-onset ascites. Physical examination will likely reveal hypotension or shock (in serious cases), pallor and also stigmata of chronic liver condition such as spider angiomatas, palmar erythema, gynecomastia, or splenomegaly. A rectal examination should be performed on all patients without apparent bleeding. A black tarry stool on the gloved finger suggests an upper gastrointestinal source, and also further workup demands to be pursued. Hemoccult trial and error is not necessary because clinically far-ranging bleeding should be evident with intuitive inspection of the stool alone.

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The gold conventional for the diagnosis of varices is esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). The is usually recommended that patients with cirrhosis experience elective endoscopic screening because that varices at the time of diagnosis and periodically after that if no or tiny varices are detected (Figure 1). If screening EGD discover appreciable esophageal varices, a size classification should it is in assigned. Various size category systems have actually been supplied over the years; however, a recent agreement meeting proposed the varices it is in categorized in only two grades, tiny and large. An ideal cut-off was determined to be 5mm; that is, little varices room those less than 5mm and large varices are those higher than 5mm.


Figure 1: Endoscopic security for esophageal varices in cirrhosis.

Another procedure the is right now being studied because that screening because that varices is esophageal capsule endoscopy. Pilot studies imply it is safe and also well tolerated (and walk not need sedation), although its sensitivity and also cost efficiency still have to be established.

The diagnosis that variceal hemorrhage is secured as soon as endoscopy shows one of the following: active bleeding from a varix, a "white nipple" overlying a varix, coagulation overlying a varix, or absence of one more potential resource of bleeding.

Previous: Signs and SymptomsNext: Treatment


Practice guidelines have been recipe by the American association of examine of Liver conditions (AASLD) about the prevention and management of gastroesophageal varices and variceal hemorrhage in cirrhosis. Treatment of varices is best considered in three distinctive phases: prevention of the an initial variceal hemorrhage (primary prophylaxis), control of acute hemorrhage, and prevention the a second hemorrhage in a patient that has currently bled (secondary prophylaxis).

Primary Prophylaxis

If a patience has little varices that have never bled and also has no risk factors for a very first variceal hemorrhage prefer high Child-Pugh score, continued alcohol use and also presence that red wale markings, prophylactic strategies deserve to be considered, although the long-term advantage has no been established. In our practice, main prophylaxis because that bleeding has regularly been reserved for those who have small varices with threat factors detailed above and for every patients with huge varices.

The primary pharmacologic strategy for avoiding variceal hemorrhage is usage of nonselective beta blockers, an especially propranolol and also nadolol. These medicines reduce portal pressures both by diminish cardiac output and also by developing splanchnic vasoconstriction. Several studies have displayed that nonselective beta blockers decrease the danger for first variceal hemorrhage by 40% come 50% when compared to patients taking placebo. A meta-analysis has also showed a statistically significant decrease in overall mortality. Selective beta-blockers, such as atenolol and metoprolol, are much less effective and also are not at this time recommended for major prophylaxis. Likewise, usage of isosorbide mononitrate (alone or with nonselective beta blockers) is not currently recommended.

Propranolol is usually started at a dose of 20 mg double daily and nadolol in ~ a dose of 40 mg daily. The score of therapy is to alleviate the WHVP by at the very least 20% or come a gradient of less than 12mm Hg. However, due to the fact that WHVP measure is not commonly available, most clinicians aim to titrate the dose of beta blockers to attain a relaxing heart rate of 55 beats/min or a palliation of heart price by 25% native baseline. Unfortunately, beta blockers have some far-reaching side effects, so often the dose is simply adjusted to a maximally tolerated dose. The most typical side effects reported are lightheadedness, fatigue, shortness the breath, and also impotence in men. Loved one contraindications come the usage of beta blockers encompass reactive prayer disease, insulin-dependent diabetes (with episodes of hypoglycemia), and also peripheral vascular disease.

Patients who accomplish criteria for primary prophylaxis yet who cannot tolerate or have actually contraindications come beta blocker therapy need to be considered for prophylactic endoscopic variceal ligation (EVL). Although studies have actually been conflicting, a recent consensus panel of experts concluded the both nonselective beta blockers and also EVL are effective in preventing first variceal hemorrhage. The decision on even if it is to law pharmacologically or via EVL should be based on patient characteristics and preferences, regional resources, and expertise.

Nitrates (either alone or in mix with blockers), shunt therapy, or sclerotherapy need to not be provided in the primary prophylaxis that variceal hemorrhage.

Acute Variceal Hemorrhage

Cirrhotic patients v suspected acute variceal hemorrhage have to be admitted directly to one intensive treatment unit setup for constant monitoring and aggressive monitoring (Figure 2). While quiet in the emergency department, early stage resuscitation can start by securing large-bore IVs and also sending bloodwork to the lab, including a type and crossmatch because that blood products. Volume resuscitation must be undertaken promptly yet with caution since vigorous resuscitation can actually boost portal pressures to levels higher than baseline, in order to prompting rebleeding. In our exercise we usually begin the resuscitation through normal saline and switch to blood or albumin (or both), as soon as available, through the score to keep hemodynamic stability. Transfusion of new frozen plasma and platelets can be taken into consideration in patients through a major coagulopathy or thrombocytopenia. Short threshold have to be taken to intubate the patient for airway protection, an especially if the patient is in shock or encephalopathy, since aspiration that blood often occurs.


Antibiotics are frequently administered in cirrhotic patient who are admitted to the hospital through variceal hemorrhage. Number of randomized clinical trials were able to display that antibiotics no only diminished the price of bacterial epidemic in these patients but also decreased the incidence of beforehand rebleeding and increased in its entirety survival. The optimal antibiotic and also duration is unclear, since benefit was detected from numerous different regimens. In general, dental norfloxacin at doses of 400mg twice day-to-day for 7 work or IV ciprofloxacin (in patient in whom oral administration is not possible) is the recommended antibiotic. In patient with progressed cirrhosis or at hospitals v a high incidence the quinolone resistance, ceftriaxone at a dose of 1g IV everyday may be preferable.

Pharmacologic treatment to diminish portal pressures is critically important and also should be considered first-line therapy for acute variceal hemorrhage. It should be initiated as soon as the diagnosis of variceal hemorrhage is suspected and before EGD. The most common pharmacologic agent offered in the United claims for this objective is octreotide, a somatostatin analogue that reasons splanchnic vasoconstriction. The benefit of octreotide is that it can stop variceal hemorrhage in as much as 80% the patients and also is almost devoid of side effects. It has been most widely used as an initial IV bolus that 50 µg followed by 50 µg/hour. This agent have to be administered ideally because that 5 days, also after bleeding is controlled. Vasopressin (most regularly used with nitroglycerin) is the many potent splanchnic vasoconstrictor, but it is rarely provided for control of variceal hemorrhage because of its many vascular side effects including wgc2010.orgocardial and also mesenteric ischemia and infarction. Terlipressin is a vasopressin analogue that has considerably fewer side effects. That is reliable in managing variceal hemorrhage and reducing mortality. It is administered at an initial sheep of 2mg IV every 4 hours and then titrated under to 1mg every 4 hrs once bleeding is controlled. Terlipressin is currently used generally in various other parts of the world however is no widely available in the joined States.

Even despite pharmacologic therapy can be efficient at managing suspected variceal hemorrhage, EGD must be carry out as quickly as feasible to confirm the diagnosis and implement endoscopic therapy. Endoscopic treatment is very effective and also can manage variceal bleeding in 80% come 90% that patients. Sclerotherapy, widely supplied in the past, is now virtually obsolete due to the fact that of threat of complication and advancement in EVL devices. Indeed, recent consensus determined EVL to it is in the preferred type of endoscopic therapy for acute esophageal variceal bleeding, although sclerotherapy is still recommended in patients in who EVL is no technically feasible. Gastric varices, i beg your pardon are often not amenable to either EVL or sclerotherapy, might be more difficult to treat. N-butyl-2-cyanoacrylate glue injected directly into the varix has actually been displayed to be efficient for regulate of bleeding gastric varices. If this certified dealer is not available or in the instance of an inexperienced operator, TIPS must be taken into consideration as first line therapy.

Despite endoscopic and also pharmacologic therapies, variceal bleeding can not be regulated or recurs in as much as 20% of patients. Portal decompressive therapy, either shunt surgical treatment or TIPS, should then be considered. As TIPS has actually become an ext widely available, this is becoming the preferred decompressive procedure. However, power of either tips or shunt surgery largely depends on neighborhood expertise. Since TIPS and surgery are both invasive procedure with a high hazard of complication, lock are scheduled for patients who fail pharmacologic and endoscopic therapy. A randomized managed trial recently reported diminished mortality and also rebleeding rates with early on TIPS (within 48 hours) after ~ variceal hemorrhage. However, this demands to be validated with more studies.

Balloon tamponade applies direct press to the ruptured varix and can it is in highly efficient for immediate manage of variceal hemorrhage. Unfortunately, recurrent bleeding is typical after the balloon is decompressed, and also balloon tamponade is linked with perhaps fatal complications together necrosis or perforation the the esophagus. Therefore, tamponade need to be used only as a rescue procedure and also a bridge to more definitive therapy (maximum 24 hours), such together TIPS, in cases of uncontrolled bleeding.

Secondary Prophylaxis

Patients who endure an episode of acute variceal hemorrhage are at high risk of rebleeding and death. If bleeding is left untreated, the rebleeding price is virtually 60% in ~ 1 come 2 years, with a mortality price of 33%. Number of studies have demonstrated that combination endoscopic plus pharmacologic treatment is the most effective way of preventing an additional bleeding episodes.

In terms of endoscopic therapies, EVL is the an approach of selection for second prophylaxis. After ~ inital regulate of the bleeding, EVL need to be repetitive at 1- come 2-week intervals until varices are completely obliterated. This usually requires 2 come 4 sessions. Once the varices space obliterated, EGD is repetitive every 3 come 6-months to advice the require for repeat EVL. Symptom of EVL incorporate chest pain, dysphagia and also ulcers that kind at the site of the band ligation, i beg your pardon universally kind and can cause far-ranging bleeding. Although not definitively proven to it is in effective, proton pump inhibition is periodically used in an effort to diminish the bleeding hazard from these tape ulcer sites for 2 weeks after an EVL procedure.

Optimal pharmacologic treatment for second prophylaxis shows up to be a combination of a nonselective beta blocker and also a nitrate. However, this mix has substantially greater next effects contrasted to beta blockers alone and is in its entirety poorly tolerated. In our clinical practice, most patients finish up acquisition beta blockers alone. Clinical opinion is split on the need to proceed pharmacologic therapy as soon as varices are totally obliterated, yet current guidelines imply that pharmacologic therapy have to be ongoing at the highest possible tolerated dose indefinitely. Tips or shunt surgery deserve to be considered in patient who experience recurrent bleeding despite combination pharmacologic and also endoscopic therapy.

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Most variceal haemorrhages have the right to be regulated with these measures. However, due to the fact that acute variceal bleeding frequently precipitates a clinical deterioration and worsening the liver man-made function, patient who space otherwise transplant candidates need to be described a liver transplantation facility for a liver transplant evaluation after recovery.