Both medical therapy and endoscopic variceal ligation (EVL) have proven to be comparable in the prevention of variceal rebleeding. However, the long-term results are still lacking. Our previous study enrolled 121 patients with history of esophageal variceal bleeding and randomized to receive EVL (EVL group, 60 patients) or drug therapy, nadolol plus isosorbide-5-mononitrate (N+I) (N+I group, 61 patients) to prevent variceal rebleeding. The EVL group received ligation regularly until variceal obliteration. The N+I group received N+I during the study period. Patients were followed for up to 8 years. After a median follow-up of 82 months, recurrent upper gastrointestinal bleeding developed in 28 patients (47%) in the EVL group and 49 patients (80%) in the N+I group (P = 0.001). Recurrent bleeding from esophageal varices occurred in 18 patients (30%) in the EVL group and 39 patients (64%) in the N+I group. The actuarial probability of rebleeding from esophageal varices was lower in the EVL group (P = 0.001). A total of 42 patients of the EVL group and 30 patients of the N+I group died (P = 0.013). The multivariate Cox analysis indicated that age, serum albumin, presence of encephalopathy, and treatment were the factors predictive of mortality.
Conclusion: Our long-term follow-up study showed that combination of N+I therapy was inferior to banding ligation in the reduction of variceal rebleeding, but with enhanced survival.