By Sylvia Foley, AJN senior editor
This month’s CE feature opens with a patient with alcoholic cirrhosis who suddenly vomits large amounts of blood. She’s experiencing variceal hemorrhage from esophageal varices, an often deadly complication of alcoholic liver disease, as author Melissa M. Smith explains. Esophageal varices occur in roughly half of all people with alcoholic cirrhosis; about one-third of these will experience variceal hemorrhage.
Smith describes the etiology of esophageal varices, then discusses the risk factors for variceal hemorrhage, noting that risk for initial hemorrhage increases with:
- larger variceal size
- presence of red spots or wales on the varices
- more severe portal hypertension
- more severe cirrhosis, with or without ascites
And the above factors as well as the following increase risk for recurrent hemorrhage:
- severity of initial bleed
- age over 60 years
- bacterial infection
- renal failure
- active alcoholism
Smith discusses emergent treatment and outlines further treatment options, which include endoscopic variceal ligation, endoscopic injection sclerotherapy, balloon tamponade, and transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) placement. The patient case vividly illustrates what can happen when bleeds recur.