Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS)
Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) is a procedure to create new connections between two blood vessels in your liver. You may need this procedure if you have very bad liver problems.
This is not a surgical procedure. It is done by a radiologist using x-ray. A radiologist is a doctor who uses imaging techniques to diagnose and treat diseases.
You will be asked to lie on your back. You will be connected to monitors that will check your heart rate and blood pressure.
Your radiologist will insert a catheter (a flexible tube) through your skin into a vein in your neck.
- On the end of the catheter is a balloon and a metal mesh stent (tube).
- Using x-ray equipment, the surgeon will guide the catheter into a vein in your liver.
- The balloon will be blown up to place the stent. You may feel a little pain when this happens.
- Your radiologist will use the stent to connect your portal vein to one of your hepatic veins.
- At the end of the procedure, your pressures will be measured to make sure portal pressure has gone down.
- After the procedure, a small bandage is placed over the neck area. There are no stitches.
- The procedure takes about 60 - 90 minutes to complete.
This new pathway will allow blood to flow better. It will ease pressure on the veins of your stomach, esophagus, intestines, and liver.
Why the Procedure Is Performed
Normally, blood coming from your esophagus, stomach, and intestines first flows through the liver. When your liver has a lot of damage and there are blockages, blood cannot flow through it very easily. This is called portal hypertension (increased pressure and backup at the portal vein).
When this problem happens, you may have:
- Bleeding from veins of the stomach, esophagus, or intestines (variceal bleeding)
- Buildup of fluid in the belly (ascites)
- Buildup of fluid in the chest (hydrothorax)
- Clotting in a vein that carries blood from the liver to the heart (Budd-Chiari syndrome)
This procedure allows your blood to flow better in your liver, stomach, esophagus, and intestines, and then back to your heart.
Potential risks for this procedure are:
- Damage to blood vessels
- Infection, bruising, or bleeding
- Reactions to medicines or the contrast dye
- Stiffness, bruising, or soreness in the neck
Rare risks are:
- Bleeding in the belly
- Blockage in the stent
- Cutting of the blood vessels of the liver
- Heart problems or abnormal heart rhythms
- Infection of the stent
Before the Procedure
Your doctor may ask you to have these tests:
Always tell your doctor or nurse:
- If you are or could be pregnant
- Any drugs you are taking, even drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription (your doctor may ask you to stop taking blood thinners like aspirin, heparin, or warfarin a few days before the procedure)
On the day of your surgery:
- Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before surgery.
- Ask your doctor which medications you should still take on the day of surgery. Take these drugs with a small sip of water.
- Take a shower the night before or the morning of surgery.
- Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital.
- You should plan to stay overnight at the hospital.
After the Procedure
After the procedure, you will recover in your hospital room. You will be monitored for bleeding. You will have to keep your head raised.
There is usually no pain after the procedure.
You will be able to go home when you feel better. This may be the day after surgery.
Many people get back to their everyday activities in 7 to 10 days.
Your doctor will probably do ultrasounds after surgery to make sure the stent is working correctly.
You will be asked to have a repeat ultrasound in a few weeks to make sure that the TIPS procedure is working.
Your radiologist can tell you right away how well the procedure worked. Most patients recover well.
TIPS works in about 80% - 90% of portal hypertension cases.
The procedure is much safer than surgery and does not involve any cutting or stitches.
Rikkers LF. Surgical complications of cirrhosis and portal hypertension. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 53.
Shah VH, Kamath PS. Portal hypertension and gastrointestinal bleeding. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2010: chap 90.
Reviewed By: Shabir Bhimji, MD, PhD, Specializing in Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Midland, TX. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.