Measurement of the Hepatic Venous Pressure Gradient and Transjugular Liver Biopsy

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Here we provide a detailed protocol describing the clinical procedure of hepatic venous pressure gradient (HVPG) measurement in patients with advanced chronic liver disease followed by an instruction for transjugular biopsy. Under local anesthesia and ultrasound guidance, a catheter introducer sheath is placed in the right internal jugular vein. Under fluoroscopic guidance, a balloon catheter is advanced in the inferior vena cava (IVC) and inserted into a large hepatic vein. Correct and sufficient wedge position of the catheter is ensured by injecting contrast media while the balloon is blocking the outflow of the cannulated hepatic vein. After calibrating the external pressure transducer, continuous pressure recordings are obtained with triplicate recordings of the wedged hepatic venous pressure (WHVP) and free hepatic venous pressure (FHVP). The difference between FHVP and WHVP is referred to as HVPG, with values ≥10 mm Hg indicating clinically significant portal hypertension (CSPH). Before removing the catheter, pressure readings obtained in the IVC at the same level, as well as the right atrial pressure are recorded.

Finally, a transjugular liver biopsy can be obtained via the same vascular route. Different systems are available; however, core biopsy needles are preferred over aspiration needles, especially for cirrhotic livers. Again, under fluoroscopic guidance a biopsy needle introducer sheath is advanced into an hepatic vein. Next, the transjugular biopsy needle is gently advanced through the introducer sheath: (i) in case of aspiration biopsy, the needle is advanced into the liver parenchyma under aspiration and then removed quickly, or (ii) in case of a core biopsy, the cutting-mechanism is triggered inside the parenchyma. Several separate passages can be safely performed to obtain a diagnostic liver specimens via transjugular biopsy. The combination of these procedures takes about 30-45 min.