- Vasopressin infusion and esophageal tamponade are still widely used to arrest variceal bleeding, but no objective evidence exists on the superiority of either of the two procedures. In this study, 108 cirrhotic patients bleeding from varices were included in a prospective, randomized trial to investigate the comparative effectiveness and safety of balloon tamponade (using the Sengstaken-Blakemore tube for esophageal varices and the Linton-Nachlas tube for gastric varices) (n = 52) and intravenous vasopressin infusion (0.4 to 0.8 mu/min) plus intravenous nitroglycerin infusion (40 to 400 micrograms/min) (n = 56). Both treatments were maintained for 24-hr. The hemostatic efficacy according to the intention to treat was 86.5% for tamponade and 66% for pharmacological therapy (p less than 0.01). No significant differences were found with respect to rebleeding during the first 72 hr after treatment, mortality rate or side effects. These results suggest that esophageal tamponade is more effective than vasopressin/nitroglycerin infusion in the treatment of variceal bleeding in cirrhotic patients.