Propranolol versus sclerotherapy in preventing variceal rebleeding: a randomized controlled trial.
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BACKGROUND: Sclerotherapy has been widely recommended as initial treatment for prevention of variceal rebleeding. The present study was aimed at comparing the efficacy of endoscopic sclerotherapy and long-term administration of propranolol in the prevention of rebleeding and long-term survival in patients who had bled from varices. METHODS: One hundred sixteen consecutive cirrhotic patients admitted because of variceal bleeding were randomly allocated to either continuous administration of propranolol to reduce the resting heart rate by 25% (58 patients) or weekly intravariceal sclerotherapy sessions using 5% ethanolamide oleate until varices disappeared (58 patients). Results were analyzed on an intention-to-treat basis. RESULTS: Rebleeding occurred in 37 patients of the propranolol group and in 26 patients of the sclerotherapy group (RR = 1.45; 95% CI, 1.03-2.03). The actuarial probability of rebleeding was lower in the sclerotherapy group (P = 0.02). No differences were found in rebleeding index, hospitalization requirements, survival, and causes of death. Complications were significantly more frequent and severe in the sclerotherapy group. CONCLUSIONS: Despite the higher efficacy of sclerotherapy decreasing the probability of rebleeding when compared with propranolol, no beneficial effects were observed on other parameters also reflecting the efficacy of therapy. Moreover, complications of sclerotherapy were more frequent and severe than those of propranolol, which probably shall restrict the use of long-term elective sclerotherapy.
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