Distal Splenorenal Shunts for the Treatment of Severe Thrombocytopenia from Portal Hypertension in Children

Joel Shilyansky, Eve A. Roberts, Riccardo A. Superina*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Profound thrombocytopenia resulting from portal hypertension may exacerbate gastrointestinal bleeding, precipitate spontaneous bleeding, preclude surgical intervention for associated disorders, and severely limit life-style because of the danger of splenic injury. Although splenectomy can reverse the thrombocytopenia, the procedure should be avoided in children. We reviewed our experience with distal splenorenal shunting (DSRS) in children, particularly when performed for the sole purpose of reversing severe thrombocytopenia resulting from portal hypertension. DSRS was performed in 11 children between the ages of 7 and 15 years: five for severe thrombocytopenia (group 1), four for advanced hypersplenism and congenital hepatic fibrosis prior to renal transplantation (group 2), and two for esophageal bleeding (group 3). One child in group 1 with severe heart disease and Child's class C cirrhosis due to hepatitis C died of progressive cardiac failure and was excluded from further analysis. Of the eight remaining patients in groups 1 and 2, four children had congenital hepatic fibrosis, two had portal vein thrombosis, one had hepatitis B, and one had Wilson's disease. After DSRS, the mean platelet count increased from 37,000 ± 18,000 to 137,600 ± 81,000 (P = 0.01). The platelet count improved significantly in all seven children with presinusoidal portal hypertension or stable cirrhosis but did not increase in the child with hepatitis B and Child's class B cirrhosis. The white blood cell count increased from an average of 3.3 ± 1.1 to 5.4 ± 2.6 (P = 0.02). There were no postoperative complications in this group. The improved platelet count allowed the four children with congenital hepatic fibrosis and renal failure to undergo renal transplantation with full posttransplant immunosuppression including azathioprine. Postoperative Doppler ultrasound examination demonstrated shunt patency at 6 months in all cases. Spleen size decreased appreciably in all children in groups 1 and 2. All children were able to resume full activity including contact sports. In summary, DSRS effectively controls profound thrombocytopenia resulting from presinusoidal portal hypertension or stable cirrhosis without sacrificing the spleen and should be the treatment of choice for this condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-172
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Gastrointestinal Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999


  • Distal splenorenal shunt
  • Portal hypertension
  • Thrombocytopenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Gastroenterology


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