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Drug treatment for bleeding oesophageal varices.

Dagher, L; Patch, D; Burroughs, A; (2000) Drug treatment for bleeding oesophageal varices. Baillieres Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol , 14 (3) pp. 365-390. 10.1053/bega.2000.0085.

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At the time of diagnosis of cirrhosis, varices are present in about 60% of decompensated and 30% of compensated patients. The risk factors for the first episode of variceal bleeding in cirrhotic patients are the severity of liver dysfunction, a large size of the varices and the presence of endoscopic red colour signs, but only a third of patients who suffer variceal haemorrhage demonstrate the above risk factors. The only treatment that does not require sophisticated equipment or the skills of a specialist, and is immediately available, is vasoactive drug therapy. Hence, drug therapy should be considered to be the initial treatment of choice and can be administered while the patient is transferred to hospital, as has been done in one recent study. Moreover, drug therapy is no longer considered to be only a 'stop-gap' therapy until definitive endoscopic therapy is performed. Several recent trials have reported an efficacy similar to that of emergency sclerotherapy in the control of variceal bleeding. Furthermore, recent evidence suggests that those patients with high variceal or portal pressure are likely to continue to bleed or re-bleed early, implying that prolonged therapy lowering the portal pressure over several days may be the optimal treatment. Pharmacological treatment with beta-blockers is safe, effective and the standard long-term treatment for the prevention of recurrence of variceal bleeding. The combination of beta-blockers with isosorbide-5-mononitrate needs further testing in randomized controlled trials. The use of haemodynamic targets for the reduction of the HVPG response needs further study, and surrogate markers of the pressure response need evaluation. Ligation has recently been compared with beta-blockers for primary prophylaxis, but there is as yet no good evidence to recommend banding for primary prophylaxis if beta-blockers can be given.

Type: Article
Title: Drug treatment for bleeding oesophageal varices.
Location: England
DOI: 10.1053/bega.2000.0085
Keywords: Acute Disease, Esophageal and Gastric Varices, Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage, Hemostatics, Humans, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Secondary Prevention, Vasoconstrictor Agents
UCL classification: UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/24142
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