Budd-Chiari syndrome (BCS) generally implies thrombosis of the hepatic veins and/or the intrahepatic or suprahepatic inferior vena cava. Treatment depends on the underlying cause, the anatomic location, the extent of the thrombotic process and the functional capacity of the liver. It can be divided into medical treatment including anticoagulation and thrombolysis, radiological procedures such as angioplasty and transjugular intrahepatic porto-systemic shunt (TIPS) and surgical interventions including orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT). Controlled trials or reports on larger cohorts are limited due to rare disease frequency. The aim of this study was to report our single centre long term results of patients with BCS receiving one of three treatment options i.e. medication only, TIPS or OLT on an individually based decision of our local expert group.
20 patients with acute, subacute or chronic BCS were treated between 1988 and 2008. Clinical records were analysed with respect to underlying disease, therapeutic interventions, complications and overall outcome.
16 women and 4 men with a mean age of 34 ± 12 years (range: 14-60 years) at time of diagnosis were included. Myeloproliferative disorders or a plasmatic coagulopathy were identified as underlying disease in 13 patients, in the other patients the cause of BCS remained unclear. 12 patients presented with an acute BCS, 8 with a subacute or chronic disease. 13 patients underwent TIPS, 4 patients OLT as initial therapy, 2 patients required only symptomatic therapy, and one patient died from liver failure before any specific treatment could be initiated. Eleven of 13 TIPS patients required 2.5 ± 2.4 revisions (range: 0-8). One patient died from his underlying hematologic disease. The residual 12 patients still have stable liver function not requiring OLT. All 4 patients who underwent OLT as initial treatment, required re-OLT due to thrombembolic complications of the graft. Survival in the TIPS group was 92.3% and in the OLT group 75% during a median follow-up of 4 and 11.5 years, respectively.
Our results confirm the role of TIPS in the management of patients with acute, subacute and chronic BCS. The limited number of patients with OLT does not allow to draw a meaningful conclusion. However, the underlying disease may generate major complications, a reason why OLT should be limited to patients who cannot be managed by TIPS.