“Cat in the Hat” Effect with Transjugular Intrahepatic Portosystemic Shunt (TIPS)

IL Holster et al (Hepatology 2016; 63: 581-89) provide useful data on the use of transjugular portosystemic shunt (TIPS) compared with endoscopic therapy/Beta-blocker for prevention of variceal rebleeding.

In this multicenter randomized trial, TIPS was compared with either endoscopic variceal ligation or glue injection along with beta-blocker treatment in 72 patients with either a first or 2nd episode of variceal bleeding.  The median followup was 23 months.

Key findings:

  • 0 of 37 (0%) of TIPS patients had rebleeding compared with 10 of 35 (29%) in the endoscopic group.
  • TIPS mortality 32% compared with endoscopic group mortality of 26% (P=0.418)
  • Hepatic encephalopathy was 35% (TIPS) vs 14% (endoscopic group) (P=0.035)

This study shows that rebleeding is common in the endoscopic therapy group but that TIPS, while fixing bleeding, often resulted in other problems.  In “The Cat in the Hat” analogy, this would equate to moving the bathtub stain to the dress or curtains but not really improving the situation.

My take: It is helpful to see how these treatment strategies compare.  The data from this study does not clearly point to one strategy over another for dealing with this serious consequence of cirrhosis.

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Statue at Ferry Dock, Culebra

Statue at Ferry Dock, Culebra

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