The aim of the present study was to compare the cumulative cost of the first 18-month period in a selected group of Italian cirrhotic patients treated with transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) versus endoscopic sclerotherapy (ES) to prevent variceal rebleeding. Thirty-eight patients enrolled in a controlled trial were considered (18 TIPS and 20 sclerotherapy). The number of days spent in the hospital for the initial treatment and during the follow-up period were defined as the costs of hospitalization. ES sessions, TIPS procedures, angioplasty or addition of a second stent to maintain the shunt patency, were defined as the costs of therapeutic procedures. The two groups were comparable for age, sex, and Child-Pugh score. During the observation period 4 patients died in the TIPS group, and 2 died and 1 was transplanted in the sclerotherapy group. The rebleeding rate was significantly higher in the sclerotherapy group. Despite this, the number of days spent in the hospital was similar in the two groups. This was because of a higher number of hospital admissions for the treatment of hepatic encephalopathy and shunt insufficiency in the TIPS group. The therapeutic procedures were more expensive for TIPS. Consequently, the cumulative cost was higher for patients treated with TIPS than for those treated with sclerotherapy. The extra cost was because of the initial higher cost of the procedure and the difference was still maintained at the end of the 18-month follow-up. When the cumulative costs were expressed per month free of rebleeding, the disadvantage of TIPS disappeared. In conclusion, a program of prevention of variceal rebleeding with TIPS, despite the longer interval free of rebleeding, is not a cost-saving strategy in comparison with sclerotherapy
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