Background & aims: Despite urgent sclerotherapy, active variceal hemorrhage has a 70%-90% mortality rate in patients with advanced age, sepsis, renal or pulmonary compromise, tense ascites, or deep coma. The aim of this study was to test the safety and efficacy of transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) performed semiemergently and preceded by stabilization by balloon tamponade in such patients.
Methods: Patients with actively bleeding esophageal or contiguous gastric varices despite sclerotherapy were assessed for risk of dying after emergent portacaval shunt. Those considered to be at high risk were stabilized by balloon tamponade and vasopressin/nitroglycerin and TIPS placed semiurgently within 12 hours. Balloon tamponade and pharmacological therapy were discontinued within 24 hours after TIPS in all cases.
Results: Thirty-two patients met entry criteria, and 2 were excluded due to portal vein thrombosis. TIPS was successfully placed in 29 of 30 patients and achieved hemostasis in all. Thirty-day and 6-week survival rates were 63% and 60%, respectively; in those without aspiration, the 6-week survival rate was 90%. After a median follow-up period of 920 days, 46% of the original cohort was alive. Only 2 episodes of early rebleeding and 4 late rebleeds occurred. Eight patients developed encephalopathy. Stent stenosis requiring dilation occurred in 6 of 11 patients within 6 months.
Conclusions: TIPS is highly effective as salvage therapy in high-risk patients with active variceal hemorrhage despite endoscopic sclerotherapy.