Portal hypertension as a consequence of liver cirrhosis is responsible for serious complications such as variceal bleeding, ascites and hepatic encephalopathy. Successful pharmacological treatment of portal hypertension can prevent the risk of the variceal bleeding, and contribute to reduce the morbidity and mortality in patients with liver cirrhosis. To identify the effect of drugs on portal hypertension, portal pressure was evaluated accurately before and after the drug administration. The hepatic venous pressure gradient has been accepted as the gold-standard method for assessing the severity of portal hypertension and the response to drug treatment. The mean hepatic venous pressure gradient was 15.1+/-5.4 mmHg in Korean cirrhotic patients who had experienced variceal bleeding. Non-selective beta blockers are the treatment of choice for primary and secondary prevention of variceal bleeding. The dose of propranolol should be subsequently adjusted until the resting heart rate had been reduced by 25% or less than 55 beats per minute. It has been reported that the optimal dose of propranolol is variable due to racial differences in cardiovascular receptor sensitivity. In Korean patients with portal hypertension and liver cirrhosis, the mean required dose of propranolol to reach target heart rate was 165 mg (range; 80-280 mg). This review covers mainly the results of the pharmacological therapy of portal hypertension in Korean cirrhotic patients.
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