Oesophageal varices

Widened veins in the walls of the lower oesophagus and, sometimes, the upper part of the stomach. Varices develop as a consequence of portal hypertension. Blood in the portal vein, passing from the intestines to the liver, meets resistance due to liver disease. The increased blood pressure causes blood to be diverted into small veins in the walls of the oesophagus and stomach. These veins may become distended and rupture, causing vomiting of blood and black faeces. There are usually other symptoms of chronic liver disease. To control acute bleeding, a balloon catheter may be passed into the oesophagus to press on the bleeding varices. The varices may be treated with an intravenous injection of vasopressin and/or by injection, via an endoscope, of a sclerosant that seals off the affected veins.


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