Hepatic outflow obstruction (Budd-Chiari syndrome). Experience with 177 patients and a review of the literature

Medicine (Baltimore). 1994 Jan;73(1):21-36. doi: 10.1097/00005792-199401000-00003.


Budd-Chiari syndrome (BCS) may not be as uncommon as was once believed. Our study has substantiated the existence of 2 major clinical forms. The acute syndrome is invariably associated with extensive blockage of the major hepatic veins, resulting in congestive liver cell necrosis. In a small, but significant, number of patients the inferior vena cava (IVC) is also occluded. The important etiologic factors are related to hypercoagulability of blood. Immediate placement of a shunt improves survival. The chronic syndrome is characterized by portal hypertension and is associated with a variable abnormal vascular anatomy. The causes of the chronic syndrome are not clear, but a substantial number of cases are related to the presence of an IVC membrane. Shunt surgery is effective but procedures aimed at the primary pathology are likely to be even more so. The natural history of BCS should be viewed over a long period of time. The very long survival of several patients urges a more cautious approach to surgical remedies. Budd-Chiari syndrome probably represents a spectrum of disease caused primarily by a hypercoagulable state and having a varied presentation depending on the balance between rate of formation and the extent of the thrombosis and the body's own rate of thrombolysis and recanalization. The extent and efficacy of the individual's collateral circulation and the rate of development of liver fibrosis are other determinants. It is thus possible to view BCS as a continuum of a single pathogenetic spectrum. Pregnancy-related BCS in India probably has strong social determinants, and is usually acute and fulminant. We have, however, documented a chronic form not described earlier. Children usually do not have acute BCS, but chronic BCS in children and adolescents is similar to that in adults. Membranous obstruction of the inferior vena cava (MOVC) is common and was found even at a young age. The association of MOVC with hepatocellular carcinoma, however, did not appear to be as clear as was previously believed. There has been a wide geographical variability in the causes and manifestations of BCS. Our study has clearly shown that--Kipling's categorical statement to the contrary--East and West do meet in India, in the Budd-Chiari syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Budd-Chiari Syndrome* / diagnostic imaging
  • Budd-Chiari Syndrome* / etiology
  • Budd-Chiari Syndrome* / pathology
  • Budd-Chiari Syndrome* / surgery
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India
  • Infant
  • Liver / blood supply
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Prognosis
  • Puerperal Disorders
  • Radiography
  • Vena Cava, Inferior / pathology