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Management of gastroesophageal varices in cirrhotic patients: current status and future directions

Nobuyuki Toshikuni, Yoshitaka Takuma, Mikihiro Tsutsumi


Bleeding from gastroesophageal varices (GEV) is a serious event in cirrhotic patients and can cause death. According to the explosión theory, progressive portal hypertension is the primary mechanism underlying variceal bleeding. There are two approaches for treating GEV: primary prophylaxis to manage bleeding or emergency treatment for bleeding followed by secondary prophylaxis. Treatment methods can be classified into two categories: 1) Those used to decrease portal pressure, such as medication (i.e., nonselective ?-blockers), radiological intervention [transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS)] or a surgical approach (i.e., portacaval shunt), and 2) Those used to obstruct GEV, such as endoscopy [endoscopic variceal ligation (EVL), endoscopic injection sclerotherapy (EIS), and tissue adhesive injection] or radiological intervention [balloon-occluded retrograde transvenous obliteration (BRTO)]. Clinicians should choose a treatment method based on an understanding of its efficacy and limitations. Furthermore, elastography techniques and serum biomarkers are noninvasive methods for estimating portal pressure and may be helpful in managing GEV. The impact of these advances in cirrhosis therapy should be evaluated for their effectiveness in treating GEV.

Key words. Gastroesophageal varices, Liver cirrhosis, Prophylaxis, Emergent treatment, Elastography

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The Official Journal of the Mexican Association of Hepatology, the Latin-American Association for the Study of the Liver and the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver

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