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Aim: Portal hypertension is a common complication of chronic liver disease and can cause variceal bleeding which is associated with high mortality. Choices for the treatment of variceal bleeding include surgical shunts and endoscopic sclerotherapy. The aim of this study was to compare the efficacy of surgical shunts and endoscopic sclerotherapy in treating variceal bleeding due to portal hypertension.

Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Setting: Medline, PubMed, Cochrane and Google Scholar databases were searched until 12 February 2015, for relevant randomised control trials. Twenty studies with a total of 1540 participants were included.

Patients: Patients with variceal bleeding due to portal hypertension.

Interventions: Surgical shunts compared to endoscopic sclerotherapy.

Main outcome measures: Rates of rebleeding, survival and hepatoencephalopathy, and length of hospital stay.

Results: Pooled data for 17 studies showed that the rate of rebleeding was significantly more frequent with sclerotherapy compared with surgical shunt therapy (OR 3.99, 95% CI 2.98 to 5.33, p<0.001). The sclerotherapy patient group compared with the shunt group was less likely to develop hepatoencephalopathy (15 studies: pooled OR 0.53, 95% CI 0.31 to 0.91, p=0.021) and had shorter hospital stays (pooled mean difference-4.32, 95% CI- 7.97 to -0.66, p=0.021). No significant difference in the survival rate was observed between the two groups (seven studies: OR 1.01, 95% CI 0.63 to 1.62, p=0.964).

Conclusion: This analysis indicated that the two types of treatment have similar mortality rates but differed with respect to rebleeding rate, incidence of hepatoencephalopathy and length of hospital stay.

(C) 2018 The Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine