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The transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt for the management of cirrhotic refractory ascites.

Cirrhotic ascites results from sinusoidal hypertension and sodium retention, which is secondary to a decreased effective arterial blood volume. Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) placement is currently indicated in cirrhotic patients with refractory ascites who require large-volume paracentesis (LVP) more than two or three times per month. TIPS placement is associated with normalization of sinusoidal pressure and a significant improvement in urinary sodium excretion that correlates with suppression of plasma renin activity, which is, itself, indicative of an improvement in effective arterial blood volume. Compared with serial LVP, placement of an uncovered TIPS stent is more effective at preventing ascites from recurring; however, increased incidence of hepatic encephalopathy and shunt dysfunction rates after TIPS placement are important issues that increase its cost. Although evidence suggests that TIPS placement might result in better patient survival, this needs to be confirmed, particularly in light of the development of polytetrafluoroethylene-covered stents. Favorable results apply to centers experienced in placing the TIPS, with the aim being to decrease the portosystemic gradient to <12 mmHg but >5 mmHg. This article reviews the pathophysiologic basis for the use of a TIPS in patients with refractory ascites, the results of controlled trials comparing TIPS placement (using uncovered stents) versus LVP, and a systematic review of predictors of death after TIPS placement for refractory ascites.

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