Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Esophageal Varices

The portal vein carries blood from the esophagus to the liver. When the liver is scarred from chronic liver disease or there’s a clot in the portal vein, excess blood flows into the smaller blood vessels of the esophagus. This increased blood pressure causes the veins to enlarge, becoming varices.

Diagnosing esophageal varices

Screening tests for esophageal varices are often routine for patients with chronic liver disease. Those tests include:

  • CT scan: A computed tomography (CT) scan combines X-ray and computer technology to produce detailed cross-sectional images of your esophagus.
  • Ultrasound: Ultrasound testing uses reflected sound waves to create images of the inside of your body. Unlike an X-ray or CT scan, there is no ionizing radiation exposure.
  • Upper endoscopy: An endoscope (a thin, lighted tube with a camera attached to it) is passed through your mouth and esophagus. Your physician can look at pictures of your digestive tract and evaluate any varices.
  • Capsule endoscopy: Images are taken by a tiny camera embedded in a small capsule that you swallow.