Prevention of portal hypertension: From variceal development to clinical decompensation

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Pharmacological treatment of portal hypertension (PH) has been exclusively devoted to gastroesophageal varices–related events at different frameworks, including prophylactic, emergency, or preventive therapy. The goals of treatment are to avoid the first bleeding episode, stop active bleeding, and prevent bleeding recurrence, respectively. The objective of preprimary prophylaxis (PPP) is to avoid variceal development, and therefore it necessarily deals with patients with cirrhosis at earlier stages of the disease. At these earlier stages, nonselective beta-blockers (NSBBs) have been ineffective in preventing the development of varices and other complications of PH. Therefore, treatment should not rely on NSBB. It is possible that, at these earlier stages, etiological treatment of liver disease itself could prevent progression of PH. This review will focus mainly on early treatment of PH, because, if successful, it may translate into histological-hemodynamic improvements, avoiding not only variceal development, but also other PH-related complications, such as ascites and portosystemic encephalopathy. Moreover, the advent of new therapies may allow not only the prevention of the complications of PH, but also the chance of a substantial degree of regression in the cirrhotic process, with the possible prevention of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). (Hepatology 2015;61:375–381)

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