Objective: The indications for and the results of portosystemic shunts done in the authors' institution since initiation of a liver transplant program 10 years ago were reviewed. Summary Background Data: With the widespread availability of liver transplantation as definitive treatment of chronic liver disease, the role of shunts in the overall management of variceal bleeding needs to be redefined. Methods: Seventy-one variceal bleeders with cirrhosis who received a shunt (82% distal splenorenal shunts) because of sclerotherapy failure or because endoscopic treatment was not indicated were reviewed retrospectively. In 44 patients with well-preserved hepatic reserve, the shunt was used as a long-term bridge to transplantation (shunt group 1). The remaining 27 patients with shunts were not transplant candidates mainly because of uncontrolled alcoholism or advanced age (shunt group 2). Survival of both shunt groups was compared to that of 180 adult patients with a history of variceal bleeding who underwent transplantation soon after referral. Results: Because of their more advanced liver disease, the liver transplant group had a higher operative mortality rate (19%) than did either of the shunt groups (5% and 7%, respectively) (p < 0.02). Kaplan- Meier survival analysis showed better survival in shunt group 1 (seven patients thus far transplanted) than in either the liver transplant group or shunt group 2 during the early years and superior survival of shunt group 1 and the liver transplant group as compared to shunt group 2 during the later years of the analysis. Only two patients from shunt group 1 have died of late postoperative hepatic failure without benefit of liver transplantation. Conclusions: A shunt may serve as an excellent long-term bridge to liver transplantation in patients with well-preserved hepatic reserve. Shunt surgery still plays an important role in treatment of selected patients with variceal bleeding who are not present or future transplant candidates.
ASJC Scopus subject areas