Background — Randomized trials have shown that transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) improves control of ascites compared to serial large volume paracentesis (LVP) in patients with refractory ascites. However, the effect of TIPS on liver transplant-free (LTF) survival is controversial. Our objective was to compare TIPS versus serial LVP on LTF survival in the general population of patients with refractory ascites.
Methods — This is a retrospective, population-based cohort study using linked administrative health data from Ontario, Canada. Adult patients identified with refractory ascites from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2016 were included and followed until December 31, 2017. A propensity score was used to match patients treated with serial LVP to those who received TIPS in a 2:1 ratio. LTF survival was evaluated using Kaplan–Meier analysis and Cox proportional hazards regression with TIPS treated as a time-varying exposure.
Results — Overall, 4,935 patients with refractory ascites were identified and 488 patients were matched (325 serial LVP, 163 TIPS). The mean age was 58 years, 70% were male, 50% had viral hepatitis, the median model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) score was 12, 13% received liver transplant and the 1-year LTF survival was 72%. After TIPS, 80 patients (49%) had no further requirement for LVP by 6 months and 61 patients (37%) never required a repeat paracentesis. In survival analysis, there was marginally worse LTF survival in patients receiving TIPS (TIPS HR 1.29, 95% CI 1.00–1.67; p = .052).
Conclusion — In this population-based study of patients with refractory ascites, TIPS was associated with improved control of ascites but not improved LTF survival.
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