Cirrhosis is a condition in which the cells of the liver are damaged. As liver cells die, scar tissue forms. It occurs with many liver diseases.
The scar tissue can make it difficult for blood to flow to the liver through the portal vein (a major blood vessel). When blood flow slows down in the portal vein, the pressure from the vein backs up. This pressure is called portal hypertension.
When portal vein blood backs up into other vessels, they become swollen. The stretched vessels are called varices and occur in the esophagus and sometimes stomach and intestine. They develop thin walls caused by the unusual high-pressure blood flow and can easily break open. Bleeding from a broken blood vessel (variceal bleeding) is serious and can be life-threatening.
When blood does not flow normally through the portal vein, it returns to the heart using other blood vessels. This means toxins remain in the body because blood cannot flow through the liver to be cleaned.
Symptoms of cirrhosis and portal hypertension include:
If your child’s symptoms indicate possible cirrhosis and portal hypertension, a pediatric gastroenterologist will complete the following exams to confirm a diagnosis:
Once liver cells are damaged, nothing can be done to repair the liver or cure cirrhosis. A pediatric gastroenterologist works with you to create a care plan for your child that will avoid further damage to the liver and prevent and treat complications such as variceal bleeding. Treatments include:
Visit the websites below to find support groups and services and learn more about cirrhosis and portal hypertension.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
The Riley at IU Health Liver Support Group meets one or two times a year for a family-oriented education program and socializing. Topics include testing for liver disease, complications of liver disease, impact of chronic disease on the family, liver transplant, nutrition for liver disease and medicine for liver disease. Please call 317.944.3774 for meeting dates and times.
This website provides education and support resources for patients and families living with cirrhosis and portal hypertension.
This government website provides information about cirrhosis and portal hypertension, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and research.
The Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition Department at Riley at IU Health is part of the Childhood Liver Disease Research Network. The goal of this research network is to learn more about diagnosis, treatments and outcomes of liver disorders. Speak with your child's doctor to learn more about available clinical studies.
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.