Esophageal Varices

Esophageal varices are abnormal, enlarged veins in the lower part of the esophagus that occur most often in people with serious liver diseases, such as cirrhosis.

Advanced liver diseases can result in scar tissue that hinders normal blood flow through the liver. As a result, blood flows into smaller vessels that are not designed to carry large volumes of blood. These small, overtaxed vessels can begin to leak or rupture, leading to life-threatening bleeding.

How are esophageal varices diagnosed?

Those with liver disease are screened for esophageal varices when they are diagnosed. These screenings include:

  • EGD
  • Imaging tests (CT scan and MRIs)
  • Video capsule endoscopy

How are esophageal varices treated?

Elastic bands to tie off bleeding veins may be applied if needed, as well as medication to slow blood flow and reduce pressure in the abnormal vein.