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Caput medusae

Caput medusae
Classification & external resources
ICD-10 I86.8 (ILDS I86.820)
ICD-9 456.8

Caput medusae is the appearance of distended and engorged umbilical veins which are seen radiating from the umbilicus across the abdomen to join systemic veins. The name caput medusae (Latin for "head of Medusa") originates from the apparent similarity to Medusa's hair once Minerva had turned it into snakes.



It is a sign of severe portal hypertension that has decompressed by portal-systemic shunting through the umbilical veins.[1]

Differential diagnosis

Inferior vena cava obstruction

  • Produces abdominal collateral veins develop to bypass the blocked inferior vena cava and permit venous return from the legs.

How to differentiate

Determine the direction of flow in the veins below the umbilicus.

  • Caput Medusae - flow is towards the legs
  • Inferior vena cava obstruction - flow is towards the head.

See also

  • Portacaval anastomosis


  1. ^ Hepatic Pathology. Retrieved on 2007-12-09.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Caput_medusae". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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