Background: Transjugular placement of an intrahepatic stent is a new technique to establish a portosystemic shunt for treatment of portal hypertension. A puncture needle is advanced in a catheter through the inferior vena cava into a hepatic vein; then an intrahepatic branch of the portal vein is punctured and an expandable stent of metallic mesh is implanted to establish the shunt.
Methods: We attempted the stent-shunt procedure in 100 of 112 consecutive patients with variceal bleeding due to cirrhosis, who were then followed for a mean (+/- SD) of 12 +/- 6 months. Of the 100 patients, 22 had Child-Pugh class C cirrhosis, 10 were treated on an emergency basis, and 68 had alcoholic cirrhosis. The shunt was established with use of Palmaz stents expanded to 8 to 12 mm in diameter.
Results: Technical success was achieved in 93 percent of the patients. The mean (+/- SD) time for the procedure was 1.2 +/- 0.3 hours. The shunt reduced the portal venous pressure gradient by 57 percent. Major complications were hemorrhage (intraabdominal bleeding in six patients, biliary bleeding in four, and bleeding in the liver capsule in three) and migration of the stent into the pulmonary artery (in two patients). At follow-up, stenosis of the shunt was evident in 21 patients and occlusion in 10 patients; 10 of these 31 patients had variceal rebleeding. Stenoses and occlusions of the shunt were all treated successfully by redilation, thrombolysis, or implantation of an additional stent. Hepatic encephalopathy (stages I to III) developed in 25 percent of the patients. The proportion of patients with shunts who remained free of variceal rebleeding was 92 percent at six months and 82 percent at one year. The 30-day mortality was 3 percent. The cumulative one-year survival was 85 percent.
Conclusions: These results suggest that the transjugular placement of an intrahepatic portosystemic stent is an effective and safe treatment for variceal hemorrhage in patients with portal hypertension due to cirrhosis.