The ECK fistula in animals and humans

Thomas E. Starzl, Kendrick A. Porter, Antonio Francavilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In all species so far studied, including man, portacaval shunt causes the same changes in liver morphology, including hepatocyte atrophy, fatty infiltration, deglycogenation, depletion and disorganization of the rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER) and its lining polyribosomes, and variable but less specific damage to other organelles. Many, perhaps all, biosynthetic processes are quickly depressed, largely secondary to the selective damage to the RER, which is the "factory" of the cell. These structural and metabolic changes in the liver after portal diversion are caused by the diversion around the liver of the hepatotrophic substances in portal venous blood, of which endogenous insulin is the most important. In experimental animals, the injury of Eck's fistula can be prevented by infusing insulin into the tied-off hilar portal vein. The subtle but far-reaching changes in hepatic function after portal diversion have made it possible to use this procedure in palliating three inborn errors of metabolism: glycogen storage disease, familial hypercholesterolemia, and α1-antitrypsin deficiency. In these three diseases, the abnormalities caused by portal diversion have counteracted abnormalities in the patients that were caused by the inborn errors. In these diseases, amelioration of the inborn errors depends on the completeness of the portal diversion. In contrast, total portal diversion to treat complications of portal hypertension is undesirable and always will degrade hepatic function if a significant amount of hepatopetal portal venous blood is taken from the liver. When total portal diversion is achieved (and this is to be expected after all conventional shunts), the incidence of hepatic failure and hepatic encephalopathy is increased. If portal diversion must be done for the control of variceal hemorrhage, a selective procedure such as the Warren procedure is theoretically superior to the completely diverting shunt. In practice, better patient survival has not been achieved after selective shunts than after conventional shunts, but the incidence of hepatic encephalopathy has been less.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)687-752
Number of pages66
JournalCurrent Problems in Surgery
Issue numberC
Publication statusPublished - 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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