Splanchnic vein thrombosis in candidates for liver transplantation: usefulness of screening and anticoagulation.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Splanchnic vein thrombosis is a significant source of complications in candidates for liver transplantation. The aims of this study were: (a) to determine the prevalence of and risk factors for splanchnic vein thrombosis in cirrhotic patients awaiting transplantation and (b) to assess the usefulness of anticoagulation. METHODS: A total of 251 cirrhotic patients listed for transplantation were analysed. All underwent systematic screening for thrombosis with Doppler ultrasonography. During the second period of the study, all patients with thrombosis received anticoagulation up to transplantation while during the first period none had received anticoagulation. RESULTS: The incidence of splanchnic vein thrombosis at evaluation was 8.4%. Seventeen additional patients (7.4%) developed de novo thrombosis after evaluation. Independent risk factors for thrombosis were low platelet count (77.4 (36.3) v 111.6 (69.2) 10(9)/l; p = 0.001), a past history of variceal bleeding (47.4% v 29.1%; p = 0.003), and a prolonged interval from listing to transplantation (8.5 (6.8) v 4.8 (4.4) months; p = 0.002). The proportion of partial or complete recanalisation was significantly higher in those who received (8/19) than in those who did not receive (0/10, p = 0.002) anticoagulation. Survival was significantly lower in those who had complete portal vein thrombosis at the time of surgery (p = 0.04). CONCLUSION: These results support a systematic screening for splanchnic vein thrombosis in patients awaiting transplantation. They suggest that in these patients, anticoagulation is safe and has a significant impact on recanalisation as well as prevention of extension of thrombosis.