Risk factors and clinical presentation of portal vein thrombosis in patients with liver cirrhosis

J Hepatol. 2004 May;40(5):736-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2004.01.001.


Background/aims: Portal vein thrombosis in patients with liver cirrhosis is usually associated to hepatocellular carcinoma. Clinical presentation of non-neoplastic portal vein thrombosis (PVT) in cirrhotic patients has not been specifically studied and risk factors of PVT in this group of patients are still poorly understood.

Methods: We studied all patients with PVT and liver cirrhosis admitted to our Unit from January 1998 to December 2002. They were paired (by gender, age and Child-Pugh score) to a group of cirrhotic patients without PVT and screened for acquired and inherited thrombophilic risk factors. These factors together with the site of thrombosis and the severity of the liver disease were correlated to the clinical presentation of PVT.

Results: Out of a total of 701 cirrhotic patients admitted to our hospital and routinely screened with Doppler ultrasound, 79 (11.2%) were found to have PVT. Of these, 34 (43%) were asymptomatic and 45 (57%) were symptomatic (31 presented with portal hypertensive bleed and 14 with abdominal pain, 10 of whom had intestinal infarction). Mesenteric vein involvement was never asymptomatic and lead to intestinal ischemia or infarction. Most patients were in class Child-Pugh B and C. Among thrombophilic risk factors studied only the mutation 20210 of the prothrombin gene resulted independently associated to PVT.

Conclusions: Portal vein thrombosis may be completely asymptomatic in patients with liver cirrhosis; however in more than half of cases presents with life-threatening complications such as gastrointestinal haemorrhage and intestinal infarction. Cirrhotic patients with PVT usually have an advanced liver disease and the presence of the mutation 20210 of the prothrombin gene increases more than fivefold the risk of PVT.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Point Mutation
  • Portal Vein*
  • Prothrombin / genetics
  • Risk Factors
  • Thrombophilia / complications
  • Thrombophilia / genetics
  • Venous Thrombosis / diagnosis*
  • Venous Thrombosis / etiology*


  • Prothrombin