Development of ascites in compensated cirrhosis with severe portal hypertension treated with β-blockers

Am J Gastroenterol. 2012 Mar;107(3):418-27. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2011.456. Epub 2012 Feb 14.


Objectives: In compensated cirrhosis, a threshold value of hepatic venous pressure gradient (HVPG) ≥10 mm Hg is required for the development of decompensation. However, whether the treatment of portal hypertension (PHT) can prevent the transition into development of ascites once this level has been reached is unclear. Our aim was to assess the relationship between changes in HVPG induced by β-blockers and development of ascites in compensated cirrhosis with severe PHT.

Methods: Eighty-three patients without any previous decompensation of cirrhosis, with large esophageal varices and HVPG ≥12 mm Hg were included. After baseline hemodynamic measurements nadolol was administered and a second hemodynamic study was repeated 1-3 months later.

Results: During 53±30 months of follow-up, decompensation occurred in 52 patients (62%) and in 81% of them ascites was the first manifestation. Using receiver operating characteristic curve analysis a decrease in HVPG ≥10% was the best cutoff to predict ascites. As compared with nonresponders, patients with an HVPG decrease ≥10% had a lower probability of developing ascites (19% vs. 57% at 3 years, P<0.001), refractory ascites (P=0.007), and hepatorenal syndrome (P=0.027). By Cox regression analysis hemodynamic nonresponse was the best predictor of ascites. By stepwise logistic regression, development of ascites was independently associated with nonresponse, whereas refractory ascites, hepatorenal syndrome, and spontaneous bacterial peritonitis were not.

Conclusions: In patients with compensated cirrhosis and large varices treated with β-blockers, an HVPG decrease ≥10% significantly reduces the risk of developing ascitic decompensation and other related complications such as refractory ascites or hepatorenal syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Ascites / drug therapy*
  • Ascites / etiology*
  • Ascites / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Portal / complications*
  • Hypertension, Portal / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension, Portal / physiopathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / drug therapy*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / physiopathology
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • ROC Curve
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists