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Portal Hypertension


Portal hypertension

is high blood pressure in the portal vein of your liver. Your portal vein is the main blood supply for your liver. Certain diseases cause scar tissue that narrows the veins in your liver. The scar tissue slows blood flow through your liver. This causes the blood pressure in your liver to rise.

Common signs and symptoms of portal hypertension:

  • Pale skin, swollen fingers, or red or itchy skin or palms
  • Yellowing of the whites of your eyes, or dark brown urine
  • Swelling of your abdomen, swollen veins across the abdomen, or spider veins on your stomach or back
  • Tumors with new, visible blood vessels
  • Enlarged breast tissue in men, or shrunken testicles
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Muscle twitches or hand movements that you cannot control
  • Loss of appetite or sudden weight loss

Call 911 if:

  • You have chest pain or shortness of breath.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You vomit blood.
  • You have bloody or black bowel movements.
  • You have swelling in your legs.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your abdomen swells.
  • You urinate very little.
  • Your heartbeat is faster than normal for you.
  • You have increased confusion or forgetfulness.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


may include any of the following:

  • Beta-blockers lower the blood pressure in your portal vein by slowing your heart rate and making your blood vessels wider. A lower pressure may prevent damage to your liver and help prevent bleeding.
  • Fluid removal may be needed when the fluid in your abdomen prevents you from breathing easily. A needle will be used to remove the fluid from your abdomen. You may need to have fluid removed several times.
  • Surgery may be needed to improve blood flow in your liver. You may need a liver transplant if surgery does not improve your condition. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about the types of surgery you may need.

Manage portal hypertension:

  • Limit sodium (salt) as directed. Too much sodium can affect your fluid balance. Check labels to find low-sodium or no-salt-added foods. Some low-sodium foods use potassium salts for flavor. Too much potassium can also cause health problems. Your healthcare provider will tell you how much sodium and potassium are safe for you to have in a day. He or she may recommend that you limit sodium to 2,300 mg a day.

  • Follow the meal plan recommended by your healthcare provider. A dietitian or your provider can give you more information on low-sodium plans or the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan. The DASH plan is low in sodium, unhealthy fats, and total fat. It is high in potassium, calcium, and fiber.

  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol will narrow your blood vessels more, damage your liver, and make your condition worse. Talk to your healthcare provider if you need help quitting.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider before you take any medicines. Certain medicines can damage your liver. Examples include antibiotics, acetaminophen, and birth control pills.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need more tests or treatment. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2018 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.