Portacaval shunting is a surgical treatment to create new connections between two blood vessels in your abdomen. It is used to treat people who have severe liver problems.
Shunt - portacaval
Portacaval shunting is a major surgical procedure. The procedure involves a large cut in the belly area (abdomen). The surgeon then makes a connection between the portal vein (which supplies most of the liver's blood), and the inferior vena cava (the vein that drains blood from most of the lower part of the body).
The new connection diverts blood flow way from the liver. This reduces blood pressure in the portal vein and decreases the risk of a tear (rupture) and bleeding from the veins in the esophagus and stomach.
Why the Procedure Is Performed
Normally, blood coming from your esophagus, stomach, and intestines first flows through the liver. When your liver is very damaged and there are blockages, the blood cannot flow through it easily. This is called portal hypertension (increased pressure and backup of the portal vein). The veins can then break open (rupture), causing serious bleeding.
Worsening of hepatic encephalopathy (a disorder that affects concentration, mental status, and memory; may lead to coma)
After the Procedure
People with liver disease are at a much higher risk for complications after surgery.
Patients with severe liver disease that is getting worse should be evaluated for liver transplant.
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Sicklick JK, D'Angelica M, Fong Y. The liver. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2012: chap 54.
A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zeive, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang. Previously reviewed by David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Joshua Kunin, MD, Consulting Colorectal Surgeon, Zichron Yaakov, Israel (7/25/2012).