Improvement in survival associated with embolisation of spontaneous portosystemic shunt in patients with recurrent hepatic encephalopathy

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Spontaneous portosystemic shunt (SPSS) is a frequent cause of recurrent hepatic encephalopathy (HE) in patients with cirrhosis.


To assess the effectiveness and optimal candidate selection for embolisation of SPSS, for the treatment of recurrent HE in patients with cirrhosis.


This retrospective cohort study compared 17 patients with recurrent HE who achieved complete occlusion of SPSS by angiographic embolisation and 17 control patients.


Most baseline characteristics were similar in the two groups. The 2-year HE recurrence rate was significantly lower in the embolisation than in the control group (39.9% vs. 79.9%, P=0.02), whereas their 2-year overall survival rates were similar (64.7% vs. 53.4%, P=0.98). Model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) and Child-Turcotte-Pugh (CTP) score were significant predictors of 2-year patient mortality in the embolisation group. Analysis of patients with MELD <15 in the absence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) showed that 2-year overall survival rate was significantly higher in the embolisation group than in the control group (100% vs. 60%, P=0.03). The median changes in MELD (−1.6 vs. 2.5, P<0.01), CTP score (−3 vs. 0, P<0.01), and liver volume (61 mL vs. −117 mL; P=0.046) at 1 year significantly favoured the embolisation group. Serious clinical complications after embolisation occurred only in patients who had MELD ≥15 and/or HCC at baseline, with all six dying within 1 year.


Embolisation of a large spontaneous portosystemic shunt may be associated with improved survival and liver function, as well as prevention of hepatic encephalopathy in cirrhotic patients with recurrent hepatic encephalopathy and modestly preserved liver function.

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