Background and aims: During acute variceal bleeding, several factors may lead to elevations of hepatic venous pressure gradient (HVPG), which may precipitate further hemorrhage. Whether somatostatin can suppress these increments is unknown. This study monitored somatostatin effects on HVPG during acute bleeding and assessed whether the changes affect outcome.
Methods: In 40 patients with acute variceal bleeding treated with sclerotherapy, a catheter was placed into a main hepatic vein for 24-hour serial measurements of HVPG. After baseline measurements, patients received somatostatin (N = 25) or placebo (N = 15) under double blind conditions.
Results: Somatostatin but not placebo produced a sustained decrease in HVPG (from 20.7 +/- 3.7 mm Hg to 17.7 +/- 2.7, P < 0.01). In patients receiving placebo, HVPG increased after a test meal (P = 0.018) and after blood transfusion (P = 0.034). Somatostatin completely prevented these increments. HVPG decreased significantly only in patients without further bleeding. One of 27 patients with HVPG <20 mm Hg at baseline or decreased >10% rebled vs. 9 of 13 who had neither of these 2 criteria (P < 0.0001). Both criteria had independent prognostic value for further bleeding.
Conclusions: During acute variceal bleeding, somatostatin produces a significant and sustained decrease in HVPG and prevents secondary elevations. Monitoring HVPG may stratify further bleeding risk and discriminate treatment response.