The liver has a dual blood supply. The portal vein (which is rich in nutrients and relatively high in oxygen) provides two thirds of blood flow to the liver. The hepatic artery (which is oxygen-rich) supplies the rest. The hepatic veins drain the liver into the inferior vena cava. When portal vein blood flow increases, hepatic artery flow decreases and vice versa (the hepatic arterial buffer response). This dual, reciprocally compensatory blood supply provides some protection from hepatic ischemia in healthy people.
Blood supply of the liver
Despite its dual blood supply, the liver, a metabolically active organ, can be injured by
Insufficient venous drainage
Specific vascular lesions
Ischemia results from reduced blood flow, reduced oxygen delivery, increased metabolic activity, or all 3. Diffuse ischemia can cause ischemic hepatitis Ischemic Hepatitis Ischemic hepatitis is diffuse liver damage due to an inadequate blood or oxygen supply. (See also Overview of Vascular Disorders of the Liver.) Causes are most often systemic: Impaired hepatic... read more ; focal ischemia can cause hepatic infarction or ischemic cholangiopathy Ischemic Cholangiopathy Ischemic cholangiopathy is focal damage to the biliary tree due to disrupted flow from the hepatic artery via the peribiliary arterial plexus. (See also Overview of Vascular Disorders of the... read more . Hepatic infarction results from hepatic artery disorders.
Insufficient venous drainage may result from focal or diffuse obstruction or from right-sided heart failure, as in congestive hepatopathy Congestive Hepatopathy Congestive hepatopathy is diffuse venous congestion within the liver that results from right-sided heart failure (usually due to a cardiomyopathy, tricuspid regurgitation, mitral insufficiency... read more . Obstruction can occur in the intrahepatic or extrahepatic veins (Budd-Chiari syndrome Budd-Chiari Syndrome Budd-Chiari syndrome is obstruction of hepatic venous outflow that originates anywhere from the small hepatic veins inside the liver to the inferior vena cava and right atrium. Manifestations... read more ) or in the intrahepatic terminal hepatic venules and hepatic sinusoids (sinusoidal obstruction syndrome Sinusoidal Obstruction Syndrome Hepatic sinusoidal obstruction syndrome is caused by endothelial injury, leading to nonthrombotic occlusion of the terminal hepatic venules and hepatic sinusoids, rather than of the hepatic... read more , previously called veno-occlusive disease) but often occurs in both. Cirrhosis Cirrhosis Cirrhosis is a late stage of hepatic fibrosis that has resulted in widespread distortion of normal hepatic architecture. Cirrhosis is characterized by regenerative nodules surrounded by dense... read more is the most common cause of diffuse intrahepatic venous outflow obstruction. Diffuse obstruction results in congestion of the sinusoids, hepatomegaly, portal hypertension Portal Hypertension Portal hypertension is elevated pressure in the portal vein. It is caused most often by cirrhosis (in North America), schistosomiasis (in endemic areas), or hepatic vascular abnormalities. Consequences... read more , reduced portal blood flow, ascites Ascites Ascites is free fluid in the peritoneal cavity. The most common cause is portal hypertension. Symptoms usually result from abdominal distention. Diagnosis is based on physical examination and... read more , and splenomegaly Splenomegaly Splenomegaly is abnormal enlargement of the spleen. (See also Overview of the Spleen.) Splenomegaly is almost always secondary to other disorders. Causes of splenomegaly are myriad, as are the... read more . Manifestations of focal venous obstruction depend on the location.
Specific vascular lesions may occur in the hepatic artery, hepatic vein, or portal vein. The hepatic artery may be occluded Hepatic Artery Occlusion Causes of hepatic artery occlusion include thrombosis (eg, due to hypercoagulability disorders, severe arteriosclerosis, or vasculitis), emboli (eg, due to endocarditis, tumors, therapeutic... read more . Uncommonly, aneurysms Hepatic Artery Aneurysms Aneurysms of the hepatic artery are uncommon. They tend to be saccular and multiple. Causes include infection, arteriosclerosis, trauma, and vasculitis. (See also Overview of Vascular Disorders... read more develop. In peliosis hepatis Peliosis Hepatis Peliosis hepatis is typically an asymptomatic disorder in which multiple blood-filled cystic spaces develop randomly in the liver. (See also Overview of Vascular Disorders of the Liver.) Measuring... read more , blood-filled cystic spaces develop in the sinusoids (microvascular anastomoses between the portal and hepatic veins).
Hepatic vein disorders can result in focal or diffuse venous obstruction.
Nearly all portal vein disorders obstruct portal vein blood flow and cause portal hypertension Portal Hypertension Portal hypertension is elevated pressure in the portal vein. It is caused most often by cirrhosis (in North America), schistosomiasis (in endemic areas), or hepatic vascular abnormalities. Consequences... read more . Obstruction can be
Extrahepatic— portal vein thrombosis Portal Vein Thrombosis Portal vein thrombosis causes portal hypertension and consequent gastrointestinal bleeding from varices, usually in the lower esophagus or stomach. Diagnosis is based on ultrasonography. Treatment... read more due to a hypercoagulable state, a vessel wall lesion (eg, pylephlebitis, omphalitis), an adjacent lesion (eg, pancreatitis Overview of Pancreatitis Pancreatitis is classified as either acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis is inflammation that resolves both clinically and histologically. Chronic pancreatitis is characterized by histologic... read more , tumor), or congenital atresia of the portal vein
Intrahepatic—eg, microvascular portal vein obstruction as occurs in schistosomiasis Schistosomiasis Schistosomiasis is infection with blood flukes of the genus Schistosoma, which are acquired transcutaneously by swimming or wading in contaminated freshwater. The organisms infect the... read more , primary biliary cholangitis Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC) Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC; formerly known as primary biliary cirrhosis) is an autoimmune liver disorder characterized by the progressive destruction of intrahepatic bile ducts, leading... read more (PBC, previously called primary biliary cirrhosis), sarcoidosis Sarcoidosis Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disorder resulting in noncaseating granulomas in one or more organs and tissues; etiology is unknown. The lungs and lymphatic system are most often affected, but... read more , and noncirrhotic portal hypertension Portal Hypertension Portal hypertension is elevated pressure in the portal vein. It is caused most often by cirrhosis (in North America), schistosomiasis (in endemic areas), or hepatic vascular abnormalities. Consequences... read more