Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) for the treatment of refractory ascites

D B Williams, R Waugh, W Selby
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Medicine 1998, 28 (5): 620-6

BACKGROUND: The Transjugular Intrahepatic Portosystemic Shunt (TIPS) corrects portal hypertension and has proven to be effective in controlling variceal bleeding in patients with cirrhosis. Several reports have now appeared suggesting a possible role in patients with refractory ascites.

AIMS: To examine the outcome of TIPS for the treatment of refractory ascites in patients with cirrhosis.

METHODS: Fifteen patients underwent TIPS for ascites between April 1992 and December 1996. The clinical findings, response to treatment, complications, shunt patency and survival of these patients were analysed.

RESULTS: TIPS was successfully placed in all patients. The mean period of follow-up was 375 days (range: 14-1165 days). In eight patients (53%) there was a reduction in the degree of ascites after shunt insertion, with six patients (40%) having complete resolution. Age, Child-Pugh class or portal pressure gradient, before or after the procedure, were not predictive of response. Of five patients with renal insufficiency (serum creatinine > 130 umol/L), only one had improvement in ascites control. Six patients (40%) required shunt revision during follow-up, either for acute thrombotic occlusion (two) or stent stenosis (four). New or worsening encephalopathy developed in ten patients (67%). Two patients (13%) died of liver failure within 30 days. Cumulative survival was 46% at one year and 18% at two years. Treatment response was associated with increased survival (p = 0.02), with median survival of 658 days as compared with 71 days for treatment failure.

CONCLUSIONS: TIPS can be effective in the treatment of refractory ascites in patients with cirrhosis. Our experience suggests the benefit may be less for patients with advanced liver disease and renal impairment. Controlled trials are needed to compare TIPS with other treatment modalities such as large volume paracentesis or peritoneovenous shunting.

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