Background & Aims: Refractory ascites is the main reason for the implantation of a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) in liver cirrhosis, but ascites control by TIPS fails in a relevant proportion of cases. Here, we investigated whether routine parameters pre-TIPS can predict persistent ascites after TIPS implantation and whether persistent ascites predicts long-term clinical outcome.
Methods: A detailed retrospective analysis of 128 patients receiving expanded polytetrafluoroethylene-covered stents for the treatment of refractory ascites was performed. Persistent ascites post-TIPS was defined as the prolonged need for paracentesis >3 months after TIPS. The influence of demographics, laboratory results, pre-TIPS heart and liver ultrasound results, and invasive hemodynamic parameters on persistent ascites was evaluated by univariable and multivariable logistic regression. Predictors of the composite endpoint liver transplantation/death were analyzed using a multivariable Cox regression.
Results: Ascites control post-TIPS was achieved in 95/128 patients (74%), whereas ascites remained persistent in 33/128 cases (26%). On multivariable analysis, a lower paracentesis frequency pre-TIPS (odds ratio 1.672; 95% CI 1.253-2.355) and lower baseline creatinine levels (odds ratio 2.640; CI 1.201-6.607) were associated with ascites control. Patients with persistent ascites post-TIPS had and impaired transplant-free survival (median 10.0 vs. 25.8 months), for which persistent ascites was the only independent predictor (hazard ratio 5.654; CI 3.019-10.59).
Conclusion: TIPS-placement in patients with lower paracentesis frequency and creatinine levels is associated with superior ascites control. Thus, TIPS implantation should be considered in moderate decompensation and not as a last resort. Persistent ascites post-TIPS seems to be the only predictor of liver transplantation and death.
Lay summary: The insertion of a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) in patients with refractory ascites should be considered in patients with moderate decompensation and not as a last resort, as lower paracentesis frequency and creatinine levels pre-TIPS are associated with superior ascites control. In turn, failure to control ascites seems to be the only predictor of liver transplantation and death.