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Summary

Background  Extrahepatic portal vein thrombosis is an important cause of non-cirrhotic portal hypertension.

Aim  To provide an update on recent advances in the aetiology and management of acute and chronic non-cirrhotic non-malignant extrahepatic portal vein thrombosis.

Method  A PubMed search was performed to identify relevant literature using search terms including ‘portal vein thrombosis’, ‘variceal bleeding’ and ‘portal biliopathy’.

Results  Myeloproliferative disease is the most common risk factor in patients with non-cirrhotic non-malignant extrahepatic portal vein thrombosis. Anticoagulation therapy for at least 3 months is indicated in patients with acute extrahepatic portal vein thrombosis. However, in patients with extrahepatic portal vein thrombosis due to a prothrombotic disorder, permanent anticoagulation therapy can be considered. The most important complication of extrahepatic portal vein thrombosis is oesophagogastric variceal bleeding. Endoscopic treatment is the first-line treatment for variceal bleeding. In several of the patients with extrahepatic portal vein thrombosis biliopathy changes on endoscopic retrograde cholangiography (ERCP) have been reported. Dependent on the persistence of the biliary obstruction, treatment can vary from ERCP to hepaticojejunostomy.

Conclusion  Prothrombotic disorders are the major causes of non-cirrhotic, non-malignant extrahepatic portal vein thrombosis and anticoagulation therapy is warranted in these patients. The prognosis of patients with non-cirrhotic, non-malignant extrahepatic portal vein thrombosis is good, and is not determined by portal hypertension complications but mainly by the underlying cause of thrombosis.