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Learning About Transjugular Intrahepatic Portosystemic Shunt (TIPS)

Location of liver below heart, with close-up of stent in liver joining portal vein and hepatic vein

What is TIPS?

TIPS is a procedure in which a tube called a stent is placed to join two veins in a damaged liver. One vein carries blood into the liver (portal vein) from the belly. Another vein goes from the liver to the heart (hepatic vein).

The scar tissue in a damaged liver can prevent the blood from filtering through the liver. This can cause high blood pressure in the portal vein. TIPS forms a channel that allows some of the blood to bypass the liver. This lowers the pressure and makes veins less likely to rupture and bleed.

Why is it done?

TIPS is used to reduce high blood pressure in the portal vein that carries blood from the intestines to the liver.

TIPS may be used to:

  • Treat fluid buildup that continues to happen even though other treatment has been tried. The buildup often happens in the belly.
  • Treat the bleeding that can happen when veins swell and break open because of the high pressure. This is called variceal bleeding. TIPS may be used when other treatments for the bleeding don't help or while you are waiting for a liver transplant.

How is it done?

A TIPS procedure may be done by a radiologist, who places a wire-mesh stent through another tube called a catheter. It goes into a vein in the neck. The doctor threads the catheter to the liver and places the stent to join the two veins. The stent is then expanded using a small balloon.

What are the risks of transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS)?

Problems from a TIPS procedure may include:

  • Encephalopathy. This happens when the liver is less able to filter toxins from the bloodstream. The toxins build up in the bloodstream and cause problems in your brain.
  • Problems with the stent, such as narrowing (stenosis) or closing (occlusion).
  • Bleeding.
  • Damage to the blood vessels.

What can you expect after a TIPS procedure?

You will stay overnight in the hospital and may go home the next day after a TIPS procedure. Your doctor or nurse checks to make sure that you're not having any problems before you go home.

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