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Keywords:

  • portal hypertension;
  • idiopathic portal hypertension;
  • hepatic microcirculation;
  • peribiliary vascular plexus;
  • portal venous obliteration;
  • angiogenic failure

Aim:  To examine the pathological changes of hepatic arteries in idiopathic portal hypertension (IPH) which is characterized by the obliteration of the intrahepatic portal vein branches and presinusoidal portal hypertension.

Methods and results:  Liver specimens (biopsied or surgically resected) from 20 patients with IPH, 20 patients with alcoholic fibrosis/cirrhosis (AF/C) and 20 histologically normal livers were used. The vascular lumina of arterial and venous vessels in portal tracts were morphometrically evaluated by an image analysis system. The ratio of portal venous luminal area to portal tract area (portal venous index) of IPH and that of AF/C were significantly reduced compared with normal liver. The portal venous index for IPH was significantly lower than that for AF/C. The ratio of hepatic arterial luminal area to portal tract area for AF/C was significantly higher than that in normal liver; however, that for IPH was similar to normal. The peribiliary vascular plexus was increased in AF/C but not in IPH. In AF/C, the number of mast cells and macrophages known to be the source of angiogenic substances was significantly increased in the portal tract compared with normal liver, while in IPH it was not increased.

Conclusions:  In AF/C, a reduction in portal venous lumen was associated with an increase of hepatic arterial lumen and of angiogenesis-related cells in portal tracts. However, such compensatory arterial changes were not evident in IPH, and this compensatory failure may be a feature of IPH.