Variceal bleeding refractory to medical treatment with beta-blockers and endoscopic therapy can be managed by variceal decompression with either surgical shunts or transjugular intrahepatic portal systemic shunts (TIPS). This prospective randomized trial tested the hypothesis that patients receiving distal splenorenal shunts (DSRS) would have significantly lower rebleeding and encephalopathy rates than TIPS in management of refractory variceal bleeding.
A prospective randomized controlled clinical trial at 5 centers was conducted. One hundred forty patients with Child-Pugh class A and B cirrhosis and refractory variceal bleeding were randomized to DSRS or TIPS. Protocol and event follow-up for 2-8 years (mean, 46 +/- 26 months) for primary end points of variceal bleeding and encephalopathy and secondary end points of death, ascites, thrombosis and stenosis, liver function, need for transplant, quality of life, and cost were evaluated.
There was no significant difference in rebleeding (DSRS, 5.5%; TIPS, 10.5%; P = .29) or first encephalopathy event (DSRS, 50%; TIPS, 50%). Survival at 2 and 5 years (DSRS, 81% and 62%; TIPS, 88% and 61%, respectively) were not significantly different (P = .87). Thrombosis, stenosis, and reintervention rates (DSRS, 11%; TIPS, 82%) were significantly (P < .001) higher in the TIPS group. Ascites, need for transplant, quality of life, and costs were not significantly different.
DSRS and TIPS are similarly efficacious in the control of refractory variceal bleeding in Child-Pugh class A and B patients. Reintervention is significantly greater for TIPS compared with DSRS. Because both procedures have equivalent outcomes, the choice is dependent on available expertise and ability to monitor the shunt and reintervene when needed.