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Background: Cirrhosis is a chronic disease characterized by chronic liver inflammation and diffuse fibrosis. A combination of vasoactive drugs, preventive antibiotics, and endoscopy is the recommended standard treatment for patients with acute variceal bleeding; however, this has been challenged. We compared the effects of early transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS), non-early TIPS, and standard treatment in patients with cirrhosis and acute variceal bleeding.

Materials and Methods: The present network meta-analysis was conducted in accordance with the criteria outlined in the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses and Assessing the methodological quality of systematic reviews guidelines. The review has been registered with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews. The PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library, ClinicalTrials.gov, and World Health Organization-approved trial registry databases were searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating early TIPS, non-early TIPS, and standard treatment in patients with cirrhosis and acute variceal bleeding.

Results: Twenty-four RCTs (1894 patients) were included in the review. Compared with standard treatment, early TIPS [odds ratio (OR), 0.53; 95% credible interval (Cr), 0.30-0.94; surface under the cumulative ranking curve (SUCRA), 98.3] had a lower risk of all-cause mortality (moderate-to-high-quality evidence), and early TIPS (OR, 0.19; 95% CrI, 0.11-0.28; SUCRA, 98.2) and non-early TIPS (OR, 0.30; 95% CrI, 0.23-0.42; SUCRA, 1.8) were associated with a lower risk of rebleeding (moderate-to-high-quality evidence). Early TIPS was not associated with a reduced risk of hepatic encephalopathy, and non-early TIPS (OR, 2.78; 95% CrI, 1.89-4.23, SUCRA, 0) was associated with an increased incidence of hepatic encephalopathy (moderate-to-high-quality evidence). There was no difference in the incidence of new or worsening ascites (moderate-to-high-quality evidence) among the three interventions.

Conclusion: Based on the moderate-to-high quality evidence presented in this study, early TIPS placement was associated with reduced all-cause mortality [with a median follow-up of 1.9 years (25th-75th percentile range 1.9-2.3 years)] and rebleeding compared to standard treatment and non-early TIPS. Although early TIPS and standard treatment had a comparable incidence of hepatic encephalopathy, early TIPS showed superiority over non-early TIPS in this aspect. Recent studies have also shown promising results in controlling TIPS-related hepatic encephalopathy. However, it is important to consider individual patient characteristics and weigh the potential benefits against the risks associated with early TIPS. Therefore, we recommend that clinicians carefully evaluate the patient's condition, considering factors such as severity of variceal bleeding, underlying liver disease, and overall clinical status, before making a treatment decision. Further well-designed RCTs comparing early TIPS with non-early TIPS are needed to validate these findings and provide more definitive guidance.

(C) 2024 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.