How are selective shunts used in the treatment of portal hypertension?

Updated: Nov 30, 2017
  • Author: Jesus Carale, MD; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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Selective shunts provide selective decompression of gastroesophageal varices to control bleeding while at the same time maintaining portal hypertension to maintain portal flow to the liver. One example is the distal splenorenal shunt, which is the most commonly used decompressive operation for refractory variceal bleeding; it is used primarily in patients who present with refractory bleeding and continue to have good liver function. The distal splenorenal shunt decompresses the gastroesophageal varices through the short gastric veins, the spleen, and the splenic vein to the left renal vein.

Portal hypertension is maintained in the splanchnic and portal venous system, and the shunt maintains portal flow to the liver. This type of shunt provides the best long-term maintenance of some portal flow and liver function, with a lower incidence of encephalopathy (10-15%) compared with total shunts. The operation produces ascites because the retroperitoneal lymphatics are diverted.

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