Endoscopic treatment (ET) is frequently used to prevent variceal rebleeding but this still occurs in about 50% of patients. Recently, transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) has been compared with ET in several trials. Using a meta-analysis, we evaluated randomized trials comparing TIPS to ET assessing prevention of rebleeding, survival, and the effects on resource use and the quality of patients' lives. Medical databases were searched between January 1988 and January 1999 as well as published citations and conference proceedings. Sensitivity analyses for type of publication, methodological quality score, mean duration of follow-up, type of ET, etiology, and severity of liver disease were performed. Eleven randomized trials involving 811 patients fulfilled the selection criteria. The median follow-up ranged from 10 to 32 months. Variceal rebleeding was significantly more frequent with ET (47%) compared with TIPS (19%) (odds ratio [OR], 3.8; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.8-5.2;P< .001), but there was no difference in mortality (OR, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.71-1.34). Post-treatment encephalopathy occurred significantly less often after ET (19%) than after TIPS (34%) (OR, 0.43; 95% CI, 0.30-0.60;P< .001). In the studies showing resource use this was more extensive for TIPS. The sensitivity analyses did not alter the main conclusion, and sole comparison with endoscopic ligation did not alter these results. In conclusion, in patients with variceal bleeding, TIPS compared with ET reduces the rebleeding rate, but does not improve survival, and increases the incidence of encephalopathy in a period of 1 to 2.5 years. Thus, TIPS cannot be recommended as the first choice treatment for prevention of variceal rebleeding.