Objectives: This longitudinal study determines the risk of rebleeding in relation to the reduction of the portosystemic pressure gradient in patients with a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) for variceal bleeding.
Methods: The study included 225 patients in whom a TIPS revision was indicated by the endoscopic finding of varices with a high risk for rebleeding (n = 167) or a recent variceal rebleed (n = 58). The portosystemic pressure gradient was determined before and after TIPS placement and at revision performed after a mean of 10 +/- 15 months.
Results: The portosystemic pressure gradient at revision approached the index pressure gradient before TIPS implantation (23.1 +/- 5.5 mm Hg) by 8.4 +/- 31%. Rebleeding was inversely correlated with the reduction in index pressure gradient found at revision. Thus, 80% of rebleedings occurred with pressure gradients close to the index pressure gradient (< 25% reduction) or with gradients equal to or greater than the index pressure gradient. In contrast, only one patient (0.4%) and three patients (1.3%) rebled with a pressure gradient of < 12 mm Hg or a reduction of the index pressure gradient by > 50%, respectively. Kaplan-Meier analysis of rebleeding, which included the 225 patients at risk, showed a probability of rebleeding of 18%, 7%, and 1% for a reduction of the index pressure gradient by 0%, 25-50%, and > 50%, respectively.
Conclusions: Most rebleedings occurred with pressure gradients similar to the index-pressure gradient measured at first bleeding. Accordingly, a graded reduction by 25-50% sufficiently prevents rebleeding. It can be assumed that, in comparison with the widely used threshold value of 12 mm Hg, a reduction by 25-50% may have a favorable benefit-to-risk ratio with respect to shunt-induced hepatic encephalopathy and liver failure. It should therefore be a goal in the decompressive treatment of portal hypertension and maintained during follow-up of patients with variceal bleeding.