During the 13 years since its introduction into clinical practice, transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) has become widely accepted worldwide as a percutaneous, interventional procedure for treating complications of portal hypertension. An experienced, skillful team, however, is necessary to ensure the high technical success of TIPS and to avoid its potential procedural complications. Presently, TIPS is used mainly for treatment of acute or recurrent hemorrhage from gastroesophageal varices refractory to endoscopic therapy. Randomized studies have shown that it is more effective than endoscopic treatment for preventing rebleeding; however, it is associated with a higher incidence of encephalopathy. Both treatments produce comparable survival rates. TIPS is also effective in the treatment of hepatogenic ascites and hydrothorax and hepatorenal syndrome. In comparison with surgical shunts, TIPS is a significantly less invasive procedure that can be done in poor surgical candidates with advanced cirrhosis. The high rate of shunt obstructions seen with TIPS mandates close surveillance and maintenance, rendering TIPS a multistage procedure. This is a major disadvantage of TIPS compared to surgery. Presently, both TIPS and surgical shunts have their place in the treatment of gastroesophageal variceal hemorrhage unresponsive to endoscopic therapy. TIPS is most suited for class B and C patients, particularly those who are candidates for liver transplantation. Surgical shunts should be considered for patients with well preserved liver function. Large, randomized controlled studies should be done to compare these treatment methods. Animal experimental and early clinical studies using covered stents (stent-grafts) are promising for the prevention of shunt obstructions and thus converting TIPS from a multistage to a one-stage procedure.
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