BLEEDING ESOPHAGEAL VARICES
Bleeding esophageal varices are very swollen veins in the walls of the lower part of the esophagus (the tube that connects your throat to your stomach) that begin to bleed.
Scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver is the most common cause of esophageal varices. This scarring prevents blood from flowing through the liver. As a result, more blood flows through the veins of the esophagus.
This extra blood flow causes the veins in the esophagus to balloon outward. If these veins break open (rupture), they can cause severe bleeding.
Any cause of chronic liver disease can cause varices.
The swollen veins (varices) can also occur in the upper part of the stomach.
People with chronic liver disease and esophageal varices may have no symptoms.
If there is only a small amount of bleeding, the only symptom may be dark or black streaks in the stools.
If larger amounts of bleeding occur, symptoms may include:
- Black, tarry stools
- Bloody stools
- Symptoms of chronic liver disease (such as cirrhosis)
- Vomiting blood
The goal of treatment is to stop acute bleeding as soon as possible, and treat varices with medicines and medical procedures. Bleeding must be controlled quickly to prevent shock and death.
If massive bleeding occurs, the patient may be placed on a ventilator to protect the airways and prevent blood from going down into the lungs.
Once the bleeding is stopped, varices can be treated with medicines and medical procedures to prevent future bleeding:
Emergency surgery may be used (rarely) to treat patients if other therapy fails.
Patients with bleeding varices from liver disease may need additional treatment of their liver disease, including a liver transplant.