Objectives: Losartan, an angiotensin II receptor blocker, has portal hypotensive effects. This study evaluates the effect of losartan on portal pressure after 14 days and compares it with that of propranolol.
Methods: A total of 39 individuals with cirrhosis were randomized into two groups of 19 and 20 patients each and were treated with losartan and propranolol, respectively. Hepatic venous pressure gradient was measured at baseline and on day 14 of therapy. Responders to therapy had hepatic venous pressure gradient reduction of >/=20% of baseline value.
Results: With losartan, 15 of 19 (78.94%) patients were responders and with propranolol, nine of 20 (45%) patients were responders (p < 0.05). Although the hepatic venous pressure gradient reduction (i.e., percentage from baseline) with losartan (26.74 +/- 21.7%) was higher than with propranolol (14.52 +/- 32%), the difference was not significant. The reduction in hepatic venous pressure gradient with losartan was contributed mainly by a significant drop of wedge hepatic venous pressure from 32.42 +/- 6.61 mm of Hg to 28.31 +/- 5.09 mm of Hg (p < 0.05) compared to that with propranolol, which was from 34.55 +/- 5.41 mm of Hg to 32.75 +/- 8.13 mm of Hg (p > 0.05). Responders among alcohol-abusing patients were significantly higher with losartan (81.8%) compared to those on propranolol (27.2%; p < 0.05). In the losartan group, all seven nonascitic cirrhotic individuals, as compared with two of five in the propranolol group, responded to the drugs. During the study, no significant side effects were observed in either group (who were not receiving diuretics) or in follow-up with diuretics.
Conclusions: Losartan is as effective as propranolol in reducing portal pressure in cirrhotic patients who are not receiving diuretics. Losartan is also superior to propranolol for achieving target level hepatic venous gradient for prevention of variceal bleeding in nonascitic and alcohol-abusing cirrhotic patients.