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Keywords:

  • Hepatic encephalopathy;
  • psychometric tests;
  • EEG;
  • mesocaval interposition shunt;
  • sclerotherapy

Abstract

Background. The aim of this randomised prospective study was to evaluate hepatic encephalopathy after mesocaval interposition shunt operation and after repeated endoscopic sclerotherapy. Methods. Forty-five patients with bleeding oesophageal varices due to liver cirrhosis were randomised to the two treatment groups, 24 to the shunt group and 21 to the sclerotherapy group. The patients were evaluated preoperatively regarding blood tests, hepatic encephalopathy as measured by electroencephalogram with spectral analysis and by a battery of psychometric tests. The direction of portal flow in the shunt group was investigated by shunt phlebography and ultrasonography with Doppler. During follow-up the same investigations were performed twice at median 6.7 and 14.7 months after operation. Results. No statistically significant difference was found during follow-up regarding blood tests and electroencephalography with spectral analysis. Although the preoperative psychometric tests showed that the shunt group performed significantly better than the sclerotherapy group, the first follow-up showed that the shunt group performed statistically worse than the sclerotherapy group in seven of the tests: Synonyms (measuring verbal ability), Block Design Test (measuring visuo-spatial ability), Memory for Design Test, Error Score (measuring memory function), Revised Visual Retention Test, correct answers and the same test error answers (measuring visuo-spatial memory, ability and immediate memory), Digit Symbol Test (measuring perceptual ability) and Trial Making Test B (measuring cognitive motor abilities). Conclusions. Patients treated by mesocaval interposition shunt showed a progressive general reduction in psychometric performance compared with patients treated with repeated sclerotherapy, in whom a general intellectual improvement was observed. This finding corresponds to the reverse direction of the preoperative portal flow to a hepatofugal pattern at first follow-up and at 12 months among two-thirds of the patients.