Background & aims: Nonselective beta-blockers (beta-blockers) are very effective in preventing first variceal bleeding (FVB) in patients with cirrhosis. However, 15%-25% of patients have contraindications or develop severe side effects precluding its use. The present study evaluates whether isosorbide-5-mononitrate (Is-MN) effectively prevents variceal bleeding in patients with contraindications or who could not tolerate beta-blockers.
Methods: One hundred thirty-three consecutive cirrhotic patients with gastro-esophageal varices and contraindications or intolerance to beta-blockers were included in a multicenter, prospective, double-blind randomized controlled trial. Sixty-seven were randomized to receive Is-MN, and 66 to receive placebo.
Results: There were no significant differences in the 1- and 2-year actuarial probability of experiencing a FVB between the 2 treatment groups. Presence of variceal red signs at endoscopy was the only variable independently associated with an increased risk of variceal bleeding on follow-up (relative risk 3.4; P < 0.01). Survival and adverse events were similar in the 2 groups. There were no significant differences in the incidence of ascites or changes in renal function.
Conclusions: Is-MN does not reduce the incidence of FVB in patients with cirrhosis and esophageal varices who cannot be treated with beta-blockers because contraindications or intolerance to these drugs, suggesting that Is-MN has no place in the primary prophylaxis of variceal bleeding.