Gastrointestinal Bleeding – Part 5
In normal individuals, the liver filters several liters of blood per minute from the gut into the portal vein on the “front side” of the liver, through the liver, and then back out the liver through the hepatic veins.
However, this normal flow is disrupted if the liver is diseased. The liver has an amazing capacity to
heal itself after injury. However, after repeated episodes of injury, it will begin to scar or fibrose. As this progresses it leads to cirrhosis of the liver. Although alcoholic liver disease is often thought to be synonymous with cirrhosis, there are many other disease states that can cause cirrhosis.
Once cirrhosis occurs the normal flow of blood through the liver is blocked. However, the blood is still flowing from the gastrointestinal tract and it has to go somewhere. The body adapts by forming alternate channels for it to get around the blocked flow in the liver and back to heart. These normally miniscule or non-existent channels develop into large, engorged veins – the varix. They are usually most prominent in the esophagus and in the stomach.
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