Health Library

Cirrhosis: Surgical Shunts for Portal Hypertension

Topic Overview

Shunt surgeries are designed to redirect the flow of blood or abdominal fluid through other areas of the body. Shunts are rarely used because of the complications they may cause. They are done only in medical centers where the surgeon is experienced in doing the procedures.

  • Peritoneovenous shunts. These shunts may reduce fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity (ascites) by diverting the fluid into normal blood circulation.
  • Portacaval shunts. Portacaval shunts may lower blood pressure in the portal vein by diverting the flow of blood from the portal vein to the large vein that returns blood to the heart (vena cava).

Shunt surgery may be used for people:

  • Who have relatively good liver function and serious complications of portal hypertension, especially recurrent variceal bleeding.
  • Who are not good liver transplant candidates because of advanced age, continuing alcohol use, or both.
  • When other treatments (such as variceal banding for bleeding or diuretics for ascites) have not worked.
  • Who have ascites and can't have a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) or repeated paracenteses.
  • Who do not have close access to medical care and cannot quickly return for more variceal banding treatments or paracenteses.

Complications of shunt surgery may include changes in mental function (encephalopathy). People who have large-diameter portacaval shunts have a 30% to 40% rate of encephalopathy.1

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Shah VH, Kamath PS (2010). Portal hypertension and gastrointestinal bleeding. In M Feldman et al., eds., Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease, 9th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1489–1516. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. Thomas London, MD - Hepatology
Current as of March 12, 2014

Current as of: March 12, 2014

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Decision Points

Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.

You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:

Interactive Tools

Get started learning more about your health!

Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.

Symptom Checker

Feeling under the weather?

Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.

Symptom Checker