BACKGROUND: Standard medical therapies for variceal bleeding secondary to portal hypertension (vasopressin, esophagogastric balloon tamponade and sclerotherapy) are associated with high rates of recurrent bleeding. Surgical shunting has a mortality rate of 15% to 50%. The transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt offers a novel, minimally invasive procedure for nonsurgical portal decompression. METHOD: Following catheterization of the hepatic vein from a jugular vein approach, a needle is directed fluoroscopically from the hepatic vein into a branch of the portal vein along an intrahepatic tract. The intrahepatic tract is then dilated and held open with a stainless steel stent delivered on a balloon catheter. This creates a portosystemic shunt entirely within the liver. RESULTS: The collective experience of more than 300 cases from several centers has been reported. The technical success rate for the transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt is 92% to 96%. Thirty-day mortality rates range from 0% to 14%, with less than 3% attributed to procedural complications. Primary shunt patency is about 90%, with a secondary patency rate of 100%. Rates of encephalopathy and rebleeding are 9% to 14%. Ascites resolves in 80% to 90% of patients. CONCLUSION: The transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt appears to be a safe and effective procedure for management of variceal bleeding and holds promise for becoming the treatment of choice for portal hypertension.

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