Background: Hemorrhage from esophageal varices remains a substantial management problem. Endoscopic sclerotherapy was preferred for more than a decade, but fluoroscopically placed intrahepatic portosystemic stents have recently been used with increasing frequency.
Objective: To compare sclerotherapy with transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) in patients with bleeding from esophageal varices.
Design: Randomized, controlled clinical trial.
Setting: Three teaching hospitals.
Patients: 49 adults hospitalized with acute variceal hemorrhage from November 1991 to December 1995: 25 assigned to sclerotherapy and 24 assigned to TIPS.
Intervention: Patients assigned to repeated sclerotherapy had the procedure weekly. In those assigned to TIPS, an expandable mesh stent was fluoroscopically placed between an intrahepatic portal vein and an adjacent hepatic vein.
Measurements: Pretreatment measures included demographic and laboratory data. Postrandomization data included index hospitalization survival, duration of follow-up, successful obliteration of varices, rebleeding from varices, number of variceal rebleeding events, total days of hospitalization for variceal bleeding, blood transfusion requirements after randomization, prevalence of encephalopathy, and total health care costs.
Results: Mean follow-up (± SE) was 567 ± 104 days in the sclerotherapy group and 575 ± 109 days in the TIPS group. Varices were obliterated more reliably by TIPS than by sclerotherapy (P < 0.001). Patients having TIPS were significantly less likely to rebleed from esophageal varices than patients receiving sclerotherapy (3 of 24 compared with 12 of 25; P = 0.012). No other follow-up measures differed significantly between groups. A trend toward improved survival, which was not statistically significant, was noted in the TIPS group (hazard ratio, 0.53 [95% CI, 0.18 to 1.5]).
Conclusions: In obliterating varices and reducing rebleeding events from esophageal varices, TIPS was more effective than sclerotherapy. However, TIPS did not decrease morbidity after randomization or improve health care costs. It seemed to produce better survival, but the increase in survival was not statistically significant.