The role of propranolol in addition to EVL in the prevention of first variceal bleed has not been evaluated. This prospective randomized controlled trial compared endoscopic variceal ligation (EVL) with propranolol and EVL alone in the prevention of first variceal bleed among patients with high-risk varices.
One hundred and forty-four consecutive patients with high-risk varices were randomly allocated to EVL plus propranolol (Gr I, n = 72) or EVL alone (Gr II, n = 72). EVL was done at 2-wk interval till obliteration of varices. In Gr I, incremental dosage of propranolol (sufficient to reduce heart rate to 55 beats/min or 25% reduction from baseline) was administered and continued after obliteration of varices. The endpoints of the study were bleeding and death.
The two groups of patients had comparable baseline characteristics; follow-up (Gr I: 13.1 ± 11.5 months, Gr II: 11.2 ± 9.9 months), number of cirrhotic and noncirrhotic portal hypertension patients [Gr I 64 (88.6%) and 8 (11.4%), Gr II 63 (87.5%) and 9 (12.5%)], and frequency of Child's A (15 vs 18), B (38 vs 35), and C (19 vs 19). The mean daily propranolol dose achieved in Gr I was 95.6 ± 38.6 mg. Eleven patients had bleeds, 5 in Gr I and 6 in Gr II. All patients bled before the obliteration of varices, the actuarial probability of first bleed at 20 months was 7% in Gr I and 11% in Gr II (p = 0.72). Six patients died in the combination and 8 in EVL group. All deaths in Gr I were due to nonbleed-related causes, while in Gr II, 2 deaths were bleed related, the actuarial probability of death at 20 months was 8% and 15%, respectively (p = 0.37). The probability of bleed-related death was comparable (p = 0.15). At the end of follow-up, 4 patients in Gr I and 11 in Gr II had recurrence of varices (p = 0.03). Side effects on propranolol were seen in 22% patients, in 8% it had to be stopped. There were no serious complications of EVL.
Both EVL plus propranolol and EVL alone are effective in primary prophylaxis of bleed from high-risk varices. Addition of propranolol does not decrease the probability of first bleed or death in patients on EVL. However, the recurrence of varices is lower if propranolol is added to EVL.
Department of Gastroenterology, G.B. Pant Hospital, New Delhi, India
Reprint requests and correspondence: S.K. Sarin, M.D., D.M., Department of Gastroenterology, Room No. 201, Academic Block, G.B. Pant Hospital, New Delhi-110002, India.
Received March 13, 2004; accepted October 13, 2004.