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May 1995

Emergency Shunt: Role in the Present Management of Variceal Bleeding

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha.

Arch Surg. 1995;130(5):472-477. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1995.01430050022002

Objective:  To evaluate the results of selective and non-selective emergency portosystemic shunts in patients with acute variceal hemorrhage.

Design:  Retrospective review.

Setting:  University medical center and Veterans Affairs medical center.

Patients:  Forty-two consecutive patients who underwent emergency portosystemic shunts from 1978 through 1994. All patients had chronic liver disease (29 [69%] had alcoholic cirrhosis) and half had Child's class C disease. Sixteen patients were actively bleeding at the time of surgery, and 26 had bled within 48 hours. Twenty-two patients underwent a nonselective shunt and 20 underwent a distal splenorenal shunt. The percentages of patients with Child's class C disease and with active bleeding at the time of surgery were significantly higher in the nonselective shunt group.

Main Outcome Measures:  Operative mortality; early postoperative rebleeding, shunt patency, encephalopathy, and ascites; and long-term survival.

Results:  Operative mortality rates were higher in patients with Child's class C disease (43% [9/21]) than in patients with Child's class A or B disease (9% [2/21]) and were higher in patients with active bleeding (all of whom underwent nonselective shunt) (44% [7/16]) than in patients who underwent distal splenorenal shunt (10% [2/20]). All shunts were patent after surgery, and no patient had rebleeding during the early postoperative interval. Early postoperative ascites and encephalopathy rates were similar after nonselective shunt and distal splenorenal shunt. Long-term survival was superior in the lower-risk distal splenorenal shunt group.

Conclusions:  Even though more effective nonoperative treatments are now available, emergency portosystemic shunt remains an important option for selected patients with acute variceal hemorrhage. When bleeding can be temporarily controlled by nonoperative means, distal splenorenal shunt is an effective and safe emergency procedure. The mortality rate remains high for patients with Child's class C disease undergoing portal decompression.(Arch Surg. 1995;130:472-477)

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