Preventive therapy of first gastrointestinal bleeding in patients with cirrhosis: results of a controlled trial comparing propranolol, endoscopic sclerotherapy and placebo

Hepatology. 1990 Dec;12(6):1413-9. doi: 10.1002/hep.1840120624.


Propranolol and endoscopic sclerosis of esophageal varices are the two approaches currently used in prophylaxis of the first gastrointestinal hemorrhage in the cirrhotic patient. One hundred twenty-six cirrhotic patients with esophageal varices and no histories of bleeding were included in the trial regardless of the gravity of the cirrhosis or the size of the esophageal varices. Patients with hepatocarcinomas or other cancers, clearly impossible follow-up, previous treatment for portal hypertension or contraindication to beta-blockers were excluded. After randomization, 43 patients received propranolol twice daily at a dose reducing the heart rate by 25%; 42 patients were treated with intravariceal and extravariceal injections of Polidocanol; 41 control patients received vitamin K orally as placebo. The patients were seen at 3-mo intervals for 2 yr. On entry to the trial the three groups were comparable in terms of clinical and biological parameters, including size of esophageal varices (grade I = 51, grade II = 54, grade III = 17), Child-Pugh classification (A = 29, B = 61, C = 32) and the origin of cirrhosis (alcoholic in 79% of cases). Twenty-four patients bled (two bled in the propranolol group, nine bled in the endoscopic sclerosis of esophageal varices group and 13 bled in the placebo group). Actuarial estimates (Kaplan-Meier) of the time of onset of first bleeding showed that the differences were significant between propranolol and placebo (p less than 0.004) and between propranolol and sclerotherapy (p less than 0.03) but not between sclerotherapy and placebo.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices / complications*
  • Esophagoscopy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Propranolol / therapeutic use*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sclerotherapy*
  • Sex Factors


  • Propranolol