Regression of portal hypertension: underlying mechanisms and therapeutic strategies

Hepatol Int. 2021 Feb;15(1):36-50. doi: 10.1007/s12072-021-10135-4. Epub 2021 Feb 5.


Portal hypertension is the main non-neoplastic complication of chronic liver disease, being the cause of important life-threatening events including the development of ascites or variceal bleeding. The primary factor in the development of portal hypertension is a pathological increase in the intrahepatic vascular resistance, due to liver microcirculatory dysfunction, which is subsequently aggravated by extra-hepatic vascular disturbances including elevation of portal blood inflow. Evidence from pre-clinical models of cirrhosis has demonstrated that portal hypertension and chronic liver disease can be reversible if the injurious etiological agent is removed and can be further promoted using pharmacological therapy. These important observations have been partially demonstrated in clinical studies. This paper aims at providing an updated review of the currently available data regarding spontaneous and drug-promoted regression of portal hypertension, paying special attention to the clinical evidence. It also considers pathophysiological caveats that highlight the need for caution in establishing a new dogma that human chronic liver disease and portal hypertension is reversible.

Keywords: Biomarker; Chronic liver disease; Cirrhosis; Hepatic circulation; Hepatic hemodynamic; Liver sinusoid; NAFLD; NASH; Portal pressure.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Portal* / drug therapy
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications
  • Microcirculation