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Abstract

Portal hypertension diffusely affects the gastrointestinal tract. The frequency and profile of distinct colonic mucosal lesions (portal colopathy) and rectal varices (RV; veins >4 cm above the anal verge) is not well studied. Fifty consecutive patients with portal hypertension (25 with cirrhosis, 10 with noncirrhotic portal fibrosis [NCPF], and 15 with extrahepatic portal vein obstruction [EHPVO]) were assessed clinically and by upper and lower gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy. Colorectal lesions were seen in 35 (70%) patients, significantly more often in bleeders than in nonbleeders. Rectal varices were detected in 22 (44%) patients; larger and more often seen in EHPVO (80%) than in cirrhosis (28%) and NCPF (30%) (P < 0.01) patients. Portal colopathy was seen in 26 (52%) patients, with nearly similar frequency in cirrhotics, NCPF, and EHPVO patients. Previous sclerotherapy or presence of gastric varices had little influence on the development of these lesions. An association (P < 0.01) was, however, seen between the presence of colopathy and portal gastropathy. Overt bleeding was seen in 8% and 4% of patients with RV and colopathy, respectively. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that colorectal lesions are present in about two thirds of patients with portal hypertension. Patients with portal hypertension and lower GI bleeding should be colonoscoped. Patients with extrahepatic portal vein obstruction may in turn benefit from baseline sigmoidoscopic examination to define the presence and size of rectal varices.