Resources

Q

What is TIPS?

A

TIPS is a procedure that helps correct blood flow problems in the liver, which is a common side effect of liver disease. The procedure is an alternative to surgery. An interventional radiologist performs the procedure.

Q

What is portal hypertension and what causes it?

A

TIPScan often help a condition called portal hypertension, which occurs when the normal flow of blood through the blood vessels in the liver is slowed or blocked by scarring or other damage. The scarring or damage is caused by liver diseases, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis.

Several things can happen when the blood vessels are blocked. Sometimes bleeding occurs when the blood tries to find unblocked pathways. In other instances, fluid accumulates in the area around the stomach or in the chest.

Q

How does the TIPS procedure work?

A

The interventional radiologist makes a tunnel in the liver through which the blocked blood can flow. After the tunnel is made, the doctor inserts a small metal tube (called a shunt or stent) into the tunnel to make sure the tunnel stays open. The interventional radiologist uses X-rays and X-ray dye (also called contrast) to guide the procedure.

Q

What happens before the TIPS procedure?

A

Patients usually receive medication before the TIPSprocedure to make them very groggy. Sometimes patients are put completely to sleep by an anesthesiologist. In any case, the patient will be given medication to take away pain.

The interventional radiologist performs the entire procedure through an I.V. tube in the neck. If you are not put completely to sleep, the doctor will numb the area before putting in the I.V. tube.

When the procedure is finished, the doctor may leave the I.V. tube in your neck so you can receive other medication through it. Stitches are not necessary when the I.V. tube is removed.

Q

What should I expect after the TIPS procedure?

A

You will return from the radiology department to your room. The doctor and nurses will tell you when you can eat and how long you will have to stay in bed. Your stomach and/or neck may be sore. There also may be some swelling or bruising in your neck. The soreness and swelling will go away in a few days to a week and generally requires no treatment.

Your TIPS will require periodic check-ups. Your doctor will need to make sure that the TIPS is working well. This is usually done at three, six, or 12 months after the TIPS procedure. Your doctor will tell you the exact schedule you should follow.

Q

What are the benefits of TIPS?

A

The benefit of TIPS is that your symptoms can be relieved without surgery, and recovery time is less than it would be after surgery.

Q

What are the risks of TIPS?

A

Any procedure involving blood vessels raises the risk of bleeding. Recent studies indicate that the risk of serious bleeding is about one to two percent.

Some patients get sick from the X-ray dye. This is more likely in patients with diabetes, kidney disease, asthma or a previous allergic reaction to X-ray dye. If you have one of these conditions, tell your interventional radiologist before the procedure begins.

About ten percent of the time, patients become temporarily confused or disoriented as a result of TIPS. This can usually be treated with medication after the TIPS procedure.

Because everyone is different, there may be risks that are not mentioned here. The risks to you will be discussed in more detail by a member of your interventional radiology team.