Aim: To assess the effects of propranolol as compared with placebo on gastrointestinal hemorrhage and total mortality in cirrhotic patients by using meta analysis of 20 published randomized clinical trials.
Methods: A meta analysis of published randomized clinical trials was designed. Published articles were selected for study based on a computerized MEDLINE and a manual search of the bibliographies of relevant articles. Data from 20 relevant studies fulfilling the inclusion criteria were retrieved by means of computerized and manual search. The reported data were extracted on the basis of the intention-to-treat principle, and treatment effects were measured as risk differences between propranolol and placebo. Pooled estimates were computed according to a random-effects model. We evaluated the pooled efficacy of propranolol on the risk of gastrointestinal hemorrhage and the total mortality.
Results: A total of 1,859 patients were included in 20 trials, 931 in the propranolol groups and 928 as controls. Among the 652 patients with upper gastrointestinal tract hemorrhage, 261 patients were treated with propranolol, and 396 patients were treated with placebo or non-treated. Pooled risk differences of gastrointestinal hemorrhage were -18 % [95 % CI, -25 %, -10 %] in all trials, -11 % [95 % CI, -21 %, -1 %] in primary prevention trials, and -25 % [95 % CI, -39 %, -10 %] in secondary prevention trials. A total of 440 patients died, 188 in propranolol groups and 252 in control groups. Pooled risk differences of total death were -7 % [95 % CI, -12 %, -3 %] in all trials, -9 % [95 % CI, -18 %, -1 %] in primary prevention trials, and -5 % [95 % CI, -9 %, -1 %] in secondary prevention trials.
Conclusion: Propranolol can markedly reduce the risks of both primary and recurrent gastrointestinal hemorrhage, and also the total mortality.