Should my patient with cirrhosis and esophageal varices be considered for partial splenic embolization?

 

Although limited, the weight of the evidence suggests that patients with cirrhosis and esophageal varices may benefit from partial splenic embolization (PSE).

A 2006 small randomized-controlled trial comparing PSE and endoscopic ligation vs. endoscopic ligation alone in patients with cirrhosis, thrombocytopenia and esophageal varices reported reduced risk of recurrence of varices, progression to variceal bleeding and death over a mean follow-up of 4.8 years. 1

A 2016 meta-analysis of PSE in the management of gastroesophageal variceal hemorrhage arrived at a similar conclusion with respect to reducing the risk of recurrence of varices, variceal hemorrhage and mortality. 2 The studies included in this meta-analysis, however, were small with only 1 randomized-controlled trial (RCT) in the series.

A 2019 small retrospective of patients undergoing transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) placement with or without PSE found a significant benefit in primary shunt patency (period between placement and first shunt dysfunction), but not secondary shunt patency (period between placement and permanent shunt dysfunction) or mortality over a 5-year follow-up.3

Adverse effects of PSE include post-embolization syndrome—a constellation of symptoms such as fever, pain, and nausea/vomiting— reported in 78%-100% of patients. More severe complications up to 15%-30% may also occur with PSE, particularly when around 70% or more of splenic volume is embolized. These complications include pleural effusion/ascites, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, pulmonary embolism, liver failure, portal vein thrombosis and splenic abscesses which may develop between 10 days to 3 months following the procedure.  Up to 6% of patients undergoing PSE may die of the procedure-related complications. 4-6  

For these reasons, careful selection of patient for PSE and limiting the extent of splenic necrosis to 50% with close monitoring of clinical and ultrasound follow-up, particularly in patients with a volume of splenic necrosis >50%,  have been suggested.6

 

Fun fact: Did you know that splenic embolization was first performed by Frank E. Maddison of Madison, Wisconsin, in 1973 using autologous clot to treat recurrent gastrointestinal hemorrhage arising from esophageal varies?

 

Liked this post? Sign up under MENU and catch future pearls right into your inbox!

References

 

  1. Ohmoto K, Yoshioka N, Tomiyama Y, et al. Improved prognosis of cirrhosis patients with esophageal varices and thrombocytopenia treated by endoscopic variceal ligation plus partial splenic embolization. Digestive Diseases and Sciences 2006;51:352-58. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10620-006-3137-8
  2. Wang P, Liu R, Tong L, et al. Partial splenic embolization has beneficial effects for the management of gastroesophageal variceal hemorrhage. Saudi J Gastroenterol 2016;22:399-406. http://europepmc.org/articles/PMC5184739/
  3. Wan Y-M, Li Y-H, Xu Z-Y, et al. Comparison of TIPS alone and combined with partial splenic embolization (PSE) for the management of variceal bleeding. European Radiology 2019; https://doi.org/10.100/s00330-019-06046-6
  4. N’Kontchou G, Seror O, Bourcier V, et al. Partial splenic embolization in patients with cirrhosis: efficacy, tolerance, and long-term outcome in 32 patients. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol 2005;17:179-84. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15674095
  5. Hadduck TA, McWilliams JP. Partial splenic artery embolization in cirrhotic patients. World J Radiol 2014;28:6:160-168. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4037542/
  6. Smith M, Ray CE. Splenic artery embolization as an adjunctive procedure for portal hypertension. Semin Intervent Radiol 2012;29:135-39. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3444868/
  7. Maddison FE. Embolic therapy of hypersplenism. Invest Radiol 1973;8:280-281. https://journals.lww.com/investigativeradiology/Citation/1973/07000/Embolic_Therapy_of_Hypersplenism.54.aspx

 

Contributed in part by Theodore R. Pak, MD, PhD, Mass General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.

Should my patient with cirrhosis and esophageal varices be considered for partial splenic embolization?

My patient with cirrhosis has a large right sided pleural effusion with only a small amount of ascites. Could this effusion still be related to his cirrhosis?

Yes! Although we often associate pleural effusions in patients with cirrhosis with the presence of large ascites, some patients present with hepatic hydrothorax even in the absence of significant ascites.1-3  

In fact, in a study involving 77 patients with hepatic hydrothorax, 49% had minimal or small and 9% had no detectable ascites!1  Interestingly, nearly three-quarters of patients in this study had right sided pleural effusion with 10% having bilateral and 17% having left sided effusion only. Hepatic hydrothorax without ascites as the first sign of liver cirrhosis has also been reported.2

Although the mechanism(s) behind hepatic hydrothorax is not fully clear, the passage of peritoneal fluid into the pleural cavity through defects in the tendinous portion of the diaphragm assisted by negative intrathoracic pressure during inspiration is commonly favored. 1-3  

Supportive evidence includes a number of studies involving intraperitoneal injection of air, dyes or technetium 99 m-sulfur colloid that have demonstrated the trans-diaphragmatic flow of ascites into the pleural cavity. 1-4  In the absence of ascites, a complete equilibrium between the amount of ascites produced and its flow into and reabsorption by the pleural cavity is assumed.1,2

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that although most patients with hepatic hydrothorax have a transudative pleural effusion according to Light’s criteria, 1 study showed that 18% of patients may meet the Light’s criteria for an exudative effusion? 5,6

 

If you liked this post, sign up under MENU and catch future pearls right into your inbox!

References

  1. Badillo R, Rockey DC. Hepatic hydrothorax: Clinical features, management, and outcomes in 77 patients and review of the literature. Medicine 2014;93:135-142. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24797168
  2. Kim JS, Kim CW, Nam HS, et al. Hepatic hydrothorax without ascites as the first sign of liver cirrhosis. Respirology Case Reports 2016;4:16-18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4722098/
  3. Rubinstein D, McInnes IE, Dudley FJ. Hepatic hydrothorax in the absence of clinical ascites: diagnosis and management. Gastroenterology 1985;88:188-91. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3964765
  4. Holt KA, Oliviera E, Rohatgi PK. Hepatic hydrothorax demonstration by Tc-99 sulfur colloid ascites scan. Clin Nucl Med 1999;24:609. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10439187 
  5. Light RW. New treatment for hepatic hydrothorax? Ann Am Thorac Soc 2016;13:773-74. https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/full/10.1513/AnnalsATS.201603-223ED
  6. Bielsa S, Porcel JM, Castellote J, et al. Solving the Light’s criteria misclassification rate of cardiac and hepatic transudates. Respirology 2012;17”721-726. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22372660
My patient with cirrhosis has a large right sided pleural effusion with only a small amount of ascites. Could this effusion still be related to his cirrhosis?

What is the mechanism of pleural fluid formation in congestive heart failure (CHF)?

The pleural fluid in CHF originates from increase filtration of plasma across the capillaries of the visceral pleura and, more importantly, excess fluid in the interstitial spaces of the lung, both related to the increased hydrostatic and capillary wedge pressures (1). It is postulated that leak of edema fluid into the pleural space may serve as a “safety valve” to mitigate overflooding of alveoli (2). 

Interestingly, although the pleural effusion is commonly bilateral in CHF, when unilateral, it is more likely on the right (1). The reason for this finding is unclear but several hypotheses have been put forth including compression of the azygous vein (which drains a portion of the parietal pleura of right lung) due to the dilatation of the right heart, and compression of the right pulmonary veins by an enlarged right atrium (1).  

Bonus Pearl: A minimum of 50 ml and 200 ml of pleural fluid are required for visibility on lateral and posteroanterior views of a chest radiograph, respectively (3).

 

References

  1. Natanzon A, Kronzon I. Pericardial and pleural effusions in congestive heart failure—anatomical, pathophysiologic, and clinical considerations. Am J Med Sci 2009;338:211-216. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19574887
  2. Zocchi L. Physiology and pathophysiology of pleural fluid turnover. Eur Respir J 2002;20:1545-1558. http://erj.ersjournals.com/content/20/6/1545.short
  3. Mammarappallil JG, Anderson SA, Danelson KA, et al. Estimation of pleural fluid volumes on chest radiography using computed tomography volumetric analysis: an update of the visual prediction rule. J Thorac Imaging 2015;30:336-339.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25811356

If you liked this post, sign up under MENU and receive future pearls straight into your mailbox!

What is the mechanism of pleural fluid formation in congestive heart failure (CHF)?