Meta-analysis of value of propranolol in prevention of variceal haemorrhage

Lancet. 1990 Jul 21;336(8708):153-6. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(90)91668-z.


A meta-analysis of all controlled clinical trials of beta-adrenoceptor blocking drugs, principally propranolol, in the prevention of primary or secondary variceal bleeding has shown that beta-blockade significantly reduced the occurrence of variceal bleeding, deaths from variceal bleeding, and overall mortality. There was some heterogeneity between trials in the effect of beta blockade on secondary prevention. When only fully reported, randomised, placebo-controlled studies were included the heterogeneity disappeared, and the reductions in bleeding episodes and mortality became more striking. Separate analyses of primary and secondary prevention studies also showed clear reductions in occurrence of variceal bleeding and deaths. These results seem to indicate the value of beta-adrenoreceptor blocking drugs for the primary prevention of haemorrhage from large oesophageal varices. However, there is still a need for large multicentre trials of beta-blockade for primary prevention of variceal bleeding in patients without large varices and of comparisons between beta-blocker therapy with other treatments in secondary prevention.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Drug Evaluation
  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices / drug therapy*
  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices / etiology
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / epidemiology
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Portal / complications
  • Hypertension, Portal / drug therapy*
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Odds Ratio
  • Patient Compliance
  • Propranolol / therapeutic use*
  • Recurrence


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Propranolol