Background and study aims: After a first variceal bleeding episode in patients with cirrhosis of the liver, treatment with transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic stent shunt (TIPS) and endoscopic variceal ligation (EVL) plus propranolol were compared, with regard to prevention of variceal rebleeding, complications, and mortality.
Patients and methods: 85 patients were randomly allocated to receive TIPS (n = 43) or EVL (n = 42). The groups were comparable regarding age, sex, etiology of liver cirrhosis, and liver function.
Results: The mean observation times were 4.1 years in the TIPS group and 3.6 years in the EVL group. Although the probability of rebleeding was higher in the EVL group (29.9%) than in the TIPS group (19.4%), the difference was not statistically significant. Three of five patients of the EVL group successfully underwent TIPS placement after treatment failure. The probability of TIPS dysfunction requiring shunt revision was 89 %. Hepatic encephalopathy was observed more often in the TIPS group (40.5%) than in the EVL group (20.5%; P < 0.05). The probability of survival was similar in both groups (TIPS group 75.9%, EVL group 82.2%; n.s.).
Conclusions: In view of its good efficacy and the lower cost of treatment, endoscopic ligation plus propranolol may be recommended as initial procedure for prevention of recurrent variceal hemorrhage, whereas TIPS seems to be the preferable procedure in patients with recurrent bleeding after adequate endoscopic and pharmacological treatment.