During the last 25 years, there have been important developments in visualising the portal vein, in examining its contents, and in measuring the pressure of blood flowing within it. Radiologists have set the scene and now is the time of the scanner. These technical advances have been applied to the diagnosis and treatment of patients with portal hypertension, and many ingenious surgical techniques have been proposed. The problem of successful treatment of the patient with bleeding oesophageal varices and cirrhosis of the liver, however, has not yet been solved. This report discusses the portal vein in terms of pressure, flow, and regeneration factors. Portal hypertension is classified and methods of relief are discussed.
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