Portal vein thrombosis


Portal vein thrombosis (PVT) is a vascular disease of the liver that occurs when a blood clot occurs in the hepatic portal vein, leading to increased pressure in the portal vein system and reduced blood supply to the liver.

Inciting Causes

Clinical Features


  • Upper abdominal pain developing suddenly or progressing over a few days
  • Possibly accompanied by nausea, hepatomegaly, splenomegaly; may be accompanied by persistent non-spiking fever in the setting of systemic inflammation
  • Other signs/symptoms based on underlying cause (e.g. bleeding disorders, hepatic stigmata if due to cirrhosis)
  • May be clinically silent in a portion of patients and diagnosed incidentally during a CT exam for other reasons (e.g. acute pancreatitis)


  • Often asymptomatic; incidental finding on imaging
  • Associated with portal hypertension

Differential Diagnosis


  • Typically diagnosed on abdominal CT with contrast
  • Filling defect on Doppler ultrasound
  • EGD to assess for gastric/esophageal varices if chronic PVT




  • In non-cirrhotic or hypercoagulable, anticoagulation after screening for varices
  • Anticoagulate patients with cirrhosis AND 1) thrombophilia, 2) clot extension in mesenteric veins, or 3) bowel ischemia
  • If severe, may require shunt, liver transplant, or bowel resection


See Also

External Links


1. DeLeve LD, Valla DC, Garcia-Tsao G (2009). "Vascular disorders of the liver". Hepatology. 49:1729-64.

2. O'Mara SR, Wiesner L. "Hepatic Disorders". In Tintinalli JE, Ma O, Yealy DM, Meckler GD, Stapczynski J, Cline DM, Thomas SH (eds.). Tintinalli's Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide (9 ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

3. Simonetto DA, Singal AK, Garcia-Tsao G, Caldwell SH, Ahn J, Kamath PS (January 3, 2020). "ACG Clinical Guideline: Disorders of the Hepatic and Mesenteric Circulation". Am J Gastroenterol. 115: 18-40.

4. Nery F, Chevret S, Condat B, de Raucourt E, Boudaoud L, Rautou P, Plessier A, Roulot D, Chaffaut C, Bourcier V, Trinchet J, Valla D (February 2015). "Causes and Consequences of Portal Vein Thrombosis in 1,243 Patients with Cirrhosis: Results of a Longitudinal Study". Hepatology. 61: 660-667. doi:10.1002/hep.27546

5. Friedman LS (2020). "Noncirrhotic Portal Hypertension". In Papadakis MA, McPhee SJ, Rabow MW (eds.). Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment 2020. McGraw-Hill.