Esophageal Varices

Esophageal varices are ruptured veins located in the esophagus that contain holes or tears that bleed. Esophageal varices are analogous to arteries with aneurysms (weak places prone to bursting). While the blood flow through veins isn’t as forceful as blood flow through arteries, this is still a serious medical condition as too much blood loss can lead to hypovolemic shock and death. The portal vein serves to bring blood from the gastrointestinal tract to the liver and eventually back to the heart. Hypertension (High blood pressure) within the portal vein can happen due to liver blockages. This increase in pressure causes swelling of veins in the esophagus and stomach. This increased pressure in veins can cause weakened spots to develop in the venous walls of the esophagus. If weakened spots open and bleed, it is termed bleeding varices. Any form of internal bleeding can be severe and life threatening and emergency treatment should be sought immediately. Esophageal varices are frequently seen in people suffering from end stage liver disease. Symptoms of esophageal varices are:

  • Hematemesis (vomiting of blood)
  • Bloody, black stools
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shock

Complications of esophageal varices are:

  • Anemia
  • Bleeding
  • Shock
  • Death

Conditions that increase one’s chance of developing esophageal varices are high blood pressure in the portal vein. Portal vein hypertension is mainly seen in patients with liver cirrhosis from long term alcohol use. Persons with primary sclerosing cholangitis are also at risk of developing bleeding varices because the blockages in bile ducts within the liver can lead to portal vein hypertension.  Also, people with preexisting esophageal varices are at risk of these rupturing.

If blood is being passed through the intestines and appears in fecal material as the only symptom of bleeding varices, this condition may be misdiagnosed as an inflammatory bowel condition, or other colorectal impairment. If you or loved one suffered harm or the worsening of a condition from misdiagnosed or undiagnosed esophageal varice, you may be eligible for monetary damages. Call the Sweeney Law Firm and let us review the facts. If we take your medical malpractice case, we work on a contingency fee basis, meaning there is no fee for representation unless a settlement or recovery of funds is made on your behalf.

link to: Cirrhosis, Bleeding Varices, Encephalopathy and Portal Vein Hypertension, Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, Ascites