From the Journals

Model may predict age-related mortality after TIPS implantation



Mortality after implantation of a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) is increased for patients aged 70 and older with cirrhosis, but creatinine and sodium levels can help with decision-making, according to a study published in Hepatology.

TIPS can improve survival in cirrhotic patients with refractory ascites or portal hypertensive bleeding, and age alone shouldn’t preclude older patients from receiving TIPS, wrote the researchers led by Francesco Vizzutti, MD, of the department of experimental and clinical medicine at the University of Florence in Italy.

“However, the indication for TIPS in older adult patients (70 years and over) is debated, and a specific prediction model developed in this particular setting is lacking,” they wrote.

Hepatic Circulation - illustration JFalcetti / iStock / Getty Images

Dr. Vizzutti and colleagues aimed to develop and validate a multivariable model to accurately predict mortality in older adults. They prospectively enrolled 411 patients at four Italian referral centers with de novo TIPS implantation for refractory ascites or secondary prophylaxis of variceal bleeding between October 2020 and March 2021.

All patients underwent TIPS placement using Viatorr-covered stent grafts. All patients had follow-up outpatient appointments every 6 months until the end of the study or when clinically indicated, such as recurrence of portal hypertension complications or TIPS dysfunction.

The research team created a competing risks model to predict liver-related mortality attributable to liver failure, portal hypertensive bleeding, hepatorenal syndrome, or hepatocellular carcinoma, with orthotopic liver transplant and death from extrahepatic causes considered as competing events. In older adults, the only competing event was death from extrahepatic causes because this age group could not receive orthotopic liver transplant.

Alcohol use disorder was the most common etiology at 37%, followed by viral infection at 30%. At the time of TIPS placement, alcohol use disorder was present as a main or concomitant etiology of liver disease in 181 patients, including 36 with active alcohol consumption.

Compared with younger patients, older adults had significantly higher prevalence of viral etiology (at 41%) and lower prevalence of alcohol use disorder (at 18%). In terms of liver function, older adults had significantly less advanced liver disease based on international normalized ratio levels, likely “reflecting a more careful selection by physicians when managing older adults,” the study authors wrote. However, older adults had significantly higher creatinine levels than younger patients, “underlining the importance of the assessment of kidney function when selecting patients for TIPS placement,” the authors wrote.

During a median follow-up time of about 20 months after TIPS placement, 99 of 411 (or 24%) of patients died of liver-related causes, 49 underwent a transplant, and 17 died of extrahepatic causes. Among the 99 older adults, 44 (or 44%) died of liver-related causes, and 7 patients died of extrahepatic causes.

In the overall cohort, the probabilities of liver-related death were 13% after 1 year, 17% after 2 years, and 24% after 3 years. The probabilities were higher in older adults, at 19% after 1 year, 30% after 2 years, and 41% after 3 years.

According to the model, age, alcoholic etiology, creatinine levels, and international normalized ratio levels were independently associated with a higher risk of liver-related death. In older adults, creatinine and sodium levels were the only independent risk factors for death.

Notably, older adult patients with favorable creatinine and sodium levels (1.2 mg/dL and 140 mEq/L, respectively) had survival probabilities of liver-related death at 1, 2, and 3 years from TIPS placement of 14%, 26%, and 34%, respectively, the authors wrote. In contrast, older adults with creatinine levels of 2.5 mg/dL and sodium levels of 130 mEq/L had worse outcomes, with risks of liver-related death of 71%, 92%, and 96%, respectively.

“These results suggest that older adult patients with preserved renal function and normal sodium levels could obtain a survival outcome after TIPS placement similar to younger patients,” they wrote. “Moreover, the occurrence of [hepatic encephalopathy] and/or recurrence of ascites or bleeding was not significantly different comparing the two groups of patients according to age.”

Future research should update the prediction model with larger sample sizes, the study authors wrote.

Dr. Bubu Babini from Yale School of Medicine

Dr. Bubu Banini

“The decision for or against TIPS should be made only after carefully weighing the risks and benefits, taking into consideration the available literature,” said Bubu Banini, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of digestive diseases and translational research director of the Metabolic Health and Weight Loss Program at Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

Dr. Banini, who wasn’t involved with the study, said the prediction model could be a useful tool to guide the decision-making process.

“As is usually the case with management of portal hypertension–related complications, a multidisciplinary discussion with evaluation of a multitude of factors, including quality of life, comorbidities, risks, and benefits, should guide decision-making,” she said.

Dr. Banini highlighted the finding that alcohol etiology for cirrhosis was associated with higher mortality compared with viral etiology.

“This is important in the context of unfortunately increasing trends in alcohol consumption in the pre- and peri-COVID era and the increased prevalence of alcohol-associated liver disease, especially in women,” she said.

The study was supported by grants from the University of Florence and the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. The study authors have received lecture fees from Gore Medical, which creates stent grafts. Dr. Banini reported no relevant disclosures.

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