A retrospective study of transjugular intrahepatic shunts performed between June 1990 and June 1991 is reported. Twelve patients were actively bleeding at the time of the procedure; 12 other patients had had one to five bleeding episodes within the previous 2 weeks, and one patient had massive ascites from Budd-Chiari syndrome. Most patients had severe liver disease: 21 Child's class C, three Child's class B, and one Child's class A. Transjugular intrahepatic shunting was technically successful in all cases. Portal vein pressures were reduced on average from 36 ± 7 cm H2O to 22 ± 6 cm H2O. Variceal bleeding ceased after transjugular intrahepatic shunting in all patients who were actively bleeding. Five patients died (30-day mortality, 20%), and eight patients subsequently underwent elective liver transplantation. The transjugular intrahepatic shunts in the 12 other patients have remained patent an average of 5.5 months. Shunt occlusion occurred in three patients at 21, 24, and 102 days, respectively. All three occlusions were successfully reopened with percutaneous techniques, yielding a primary shunt patency of 88% and secondary shunt patency of 100%. Complications included new onset encephalopathy in one patient, which cleared with medical therapy and transient renal failure in one patient. These preliminary data suggest that transjugular intrahepatic shunting is a safe and effective therapy for the short-term treatment of patients with variceal hemorrhage, particularly in patients with severe liver disease awaiting transplantation. The long-term benefit of transjugular intrahepatic shunting awaits further follow-up.