Systematic Review of Thrombolysis Therapy in the Management of Non-Cirrhosis-Related Portal Vein Thrombosis

J Gastrointest Surg. 2021 Jun;25(6):1579-1590. doi: 10.1007/s11605-020-04624-4. Epub 2021 Jan 16.


Purpose: To review available evidence to assess the efficacy and safety of thrombolysis therapy for non-cirrhosis-related portal vein thrombosis (PVT) that has not improved with anti-coagulation.

Methods: A literature search of databases MEDLINE, EMBASE, PUBMED, Cochrane and World Wide Web identified studies after 2000 utilizing portal vein thrombolysis in non-cirrhotic patients, with a minimum of 5 patients. Nine studies met criteria with 134 patients. The primary outcome evaluated was radiological re-canalization of the portal vein and symptomatic improvement post treatment. Secondary data points obtained included morbidity, mortality, thrombolysis approach and technique.

Results: The re-canalization rate following thrombolysis was 84% (0.67-1.02 CI 95%) and the symptomatic improvement rate 86% (0.70-1.01 CI 95%). The major complication rate was 7% (0.01-0.14 CI 95%) and the overall complication rate 25% (0.08-0.41 CI 95%). The direct and systemic thrombolysis approach showed no significant re-canalization rates with an odds ratio of 0.78 (0.24-2.55 CI 95%, P = 0.68). Thrombectomy in conjunction with thrombolysis demonstrated no improved patency or symptom relief with an odds ratio of 1 (0.17-6.03 CI 95%, P = 1.00).

Conclusion: Thrombolysis is an effective and safe therapy for portal vein thrombosis in non-cirrhotic patients where systemic anti-coagulation has failed. The heterogenicity of study thrombolysis protocols limits the evaluation of secondary outcomes, and future data should be standardized to determine the role of the thrombolysis access route and thrombectomy.

Keywords: Portal vein; Portal vein thrombosis; Thrombectomy; Thrombolysis; Thrombosis.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Portal Vein*
  • Thrombectomy
  • Thrombolytic Therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Venous Thrombosis* / drug therapy
  • Venous Thrombosis* / etiology