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Hepatic vein obstruction (Budd-Chiari)

Show Alternative Names
Budd-Chiari syndrome
Hepatic veno-occlusive disease

Hepatic vein obstruction is a blockage of the hepatic vein, which carries blood away from the liver.

Causes

Hepatic vein obstruction prevents blood from flowing out of the liver and back to the heart. This blockage can cause liver damage. Obstruction of this vein can be caused by a tumor or growth pressing on the vessel, or by a clot in the vessel (hepatic vein thrombosis).

Most often, it is caused by conditions that make blood clots more likely to form, including:

  • Abnormal growth of cells in the bone marrow (myeloproliferative disorders)
  • Cancers
  • Chronic inflammatory or autoimmune diseases
  • Infections
  • Inherited (hereditary) or acquired problems with blood clotting
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Pregnancy

Hepatic vein blockage is the most common cause of Budd-Chiari syndrome.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal swelling or stretching due to fluid in the abdomen
  • Pain in the right upper abdomen
  • Vomiting blood
  • Yellowing of the skin (jaundice)

Exams and Tests

One of the signs is swelling of the abdomen from fluid buildup (ascites). The liver is often swollen and tender.

Tests include:

Treatment

Treatment varies, depending on the cause of the blockage.

Your health care provider may recommend the following medicines:

  • Blood thinners (anticoagulants)
  • Clot-busting drugs (thrombolytic treatment)
  • Medicines to treat the liver disease, including ascites

Surgery may be recommended. This may involve:

  • Angioplasty and stent placement
  • Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS)
  • Venous shunt surgery
  • Liver transplant

Possible Complications

Hepatic vein obstruction can get worse and lead to cirrhosis and liver failure. This can be life threatening.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:

  • You have symptoms of hepatic vein obstruction
  • You are being treated for this condition and you develop new symptoms

Text only

Review Date: 5/27/2020

Reviewed By

Jenifer K. Lehrer, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Aria - Jefferson Health Torresdale, Jefferson Digestive Diseases Network, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

References

Kahi CJ. Vascular diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 134.

Nery FG, Valla DC. Vascular diseases of the liver. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 85.

Disclaimer

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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Digestive system - Illustration Thumbnail

Digestive system

The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.

Illustration

Digestive system organs - Illustration Thumbnail

Digestive system organs

The digestive system organs in the abdominal cavity include the liver, gallbladder, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.

Illustration

Blood clot formation - Illustration Thumbnail

Blood clot formation

Blood clotting normally occurs when there is damage to a blood vessel. Platelets immediately begin to adhere to the cut edges of the vessel and release chemicals to attract even more platelets. A platelet plug is formed, and the external bleeding stops.

Next, small molecules, called clotting factors, cause strands of blood-borne materials, called fibrin, to stick together and seal the inside of the wound. Eventually, the cut blood vessel heals and the blood clot dissolves after a few days.

Illustration

Blood clots - Illustration Thumbnail

Blood clots

Blood clots (fibrin clots) are the clumps that result when blood coagulates.

Illustration

Hepatic venous circulation - Illustration Thumbnail

Hepatic venous circulation

The portal vein drains blood from the intestine, stomach, spleen, pancreas, and gallbladder into the liver. The liver processes the nutrients in this blood and filters out toxic substances. The hepatic veins then carry the blood away from the liver and into the inferior vena cava, which leads to the right atrium, one of the four chambers of the heart.

Illustration

Digestive system - Illustration Thumbnail

Digestive system

The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.

Illustration

Digestive system organs - Illustration Thumbnail

Digestive system organs

The digestive system organs in the abdominal cavity include the liver, gallbladder, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.

Illustration

Blood clot formation - Illustration Thumbnail

Blood clot formation

Blood clotting normally occurs when there is damage to a blood vessel. Platelets immediately begin to adhere to the cut edges of the vessel and release chemicals to attract even more platelets. A platelet plug is formed, and the external bleeding stops.

Next, small molecules, called clotting factors, cause strands of blood-borne materials, called fibrin, to stick together and seal the inside of the wound. Eventually, the cut blood vessel heals and the blood clot dissolves after a few days.

Illustration

Blood clots - Illustration Thumbnail

Blood clots

Blood clots (fibrin clots) are the clumps that result when blood coagulates.

Illustration

Hepatic venous circulation - Illustration Thumbnail

Hepatic venous circulation

The portal vein drains blood from the intestine, stomach, spleen, pancreas, and gallbladder into the liver. The liver processes the nutrients in this blood and filters out toxic substances. The hepatic veins then carry the blood away from the liver and into the inferior vena cava, which leads to the right atrium, one of the four chambers of the heart.

Illustration

 
 
 
 

 

 
 

 
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