Background: Previous clinical trials on the treatment of esophageal variceal bleeding yielded mixed results regarding the efficacy of endoscopic procedures compared with pharmacotherapy only.
Objective: To compare the efficacy of endoscopic procedures with that of pharmacotherapy in the prevention of mortality and rebleeding.
Design and setting: A systematic literature review was performed to identify randomized, controlled trials of the efficacy of pharmacotherapy and endoscopic therapy. A meta-analysis was performed by using the Comprehensive MetaAnalysis software package. A 2-sided alpha error <.05 was considered statistically significant (P < .05).
Patients: Twenty-five clinical trials with a total of 2159 patients were eligible for meta-analysis.
Outcome measurements: Relative risk (RR) with 95% confidence interval (CI) was computed for all-cause mortality, mortality from rebleeding, all-cause rebleeding, and rebleeding caused by varices.
Results: Pharmacotherapy was as effective as endoscopic procedures in preventing rebleeding (RR 1.067; 95% CI, 0.865-1.316; P = .546), variceal rebleeding (RR 1.143; 95% CI, 0.791-1.651; P = .476), all-cause mortality (RR 0.997; 95% CI, 0.827-1.202, P = .978), and mortality from rebleeding (RR 1.171; 95% CI, 0.816-1.679; P = .39). Pharmacotherapy combined with endoscopic procedures did not reduce all-cause mortality (RR 0.787; 95% CI, 0.587-1.054; P = .108) or mortality caused by rebleeding (RR 0.786; 95% CI, 0.445-1.387; P = .405) compared with endoscopic procedures. However, combination therapy (endoscopic procedure plus pharmacotherapy) significantly reduced the incidence of all rebleeding (RR 0.623; 95% CI, 0.523-0.741; P < .001) and variceal rebleeding (RR 0.601; 95% CI, 0.440-0.820; P < .001).
Limitations: Heterogeneity of patient population and different treatment protocols may have affected our meta-analysis.
Conclusion: Pharmacotherapy may be as effective as endoscopic therapy in reducing rebleeding rates and all-cause mortality. Pharmacotherapy plus endoscopic intervention is more effective than endoscopic intervention alone.