Despite a wide array of mechanisms implicated in esophagogastric varix hemorrhage, predicting the onset of bleeding or even identifying the dominant factor in its causation has proved elusive. In this article we re-examine variceal pathophysiology and hypothesize that bleeding is rooted in turbulent portal system flow, a phenomenon embodied in the 'new' science of chaos and the principles of non-linear, rhythmic fluid dynamics. Analogous to forecasting the weather, predicting turbulent flow hinges on defining the initial physical conditions, and, like the field theory of quantum physics, depends on probabilities and instabilities rather than direct proportional analysis. Based on the complex regional and systemic hemodynamic forces and local physical properties underlying formation and perpetuation of esophagogastric varices, we propose, as with climatologic events, that a relatively minor or remote physiologic adjustment may set into motion a sequence of destabilizing splanchnic blood flow kinetics that ultimately causes a varix to erupt. In other words, the onset of varix bleeding derives from a sudden, erratic switch from disorganized but stable to disruptive turbulent variceal blood flow, and as a 'chaotic' phenomenon, is likely to remain for the foreseeable future highly unpredictable.
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