Objective: We undertook a prospective randomized clinical trial comparing TIPS to peritoneovenous (PV) shunts in the treatment of medically intractable ascites to establish relative efficacy and morbidity, and thereby superiority, between these shunts.
Methods: Thirty-two patients were prospectively randomized to undergo TIPS or peritoneovenous (Denver) shunts. All patients had failed medical therapy.
Results: After TIPS versus peritoneovenous shunts, median (mean +/- SD) duration of shunt patency was similar: 4.4 months (6 +/- 6.6 months) versus 4.0 months (5 +/- 4.6 months). Assisted shunt patency was longer after TIPS: 31.1 months (41 +/- 25.9 months) versus 13.1 months (19 +/- 17.3 months) (P < 0.01, Wilcoxon test). Ultimately, after TIPS 19% of patients had irreversible shunt occlusion versus 38% of patients after peritoneovenous shunts. Survival after TIPS was 28.7 months (41 +/- 28.7 months) versus 16.1 months (28 +/- 29.7 months) after peritoneovenous shunts. Control of ascites was achieved sooner after peritoneovenous shunts than after TIPS (73% vs. 46% after 1 month), but longer-term efficacy favored TIPS (eg, 85% vs. 40% at 3 years).
Conclusion: TIPS and peritoneovenous shunts treat medically intractable ascites. Absence of ascites after either is uncommon. PV shunts control ascites sooner, although TIPS provides better long-term efficacy. After either shunt, numerous interventions are required to assist patency. Assisted shunt patency is better after TIPS. Treating medically refractory ascites with TIPS risks early shunt-related mortality for prospects of longer survival with ascites control. This study promotes the application of TIPS for medically intractable ascites if patients undergoing TIPS have prospects beyond short-term survival.