Background: Sclerotherapy is considered the most effective way to stop bleeding from esophageal varices, but acute variceal bleeding is still associated with a high risk of rebleeding and death. We compared sclerotherapy alone with sclerotherapy and octreotide to control acute variceal bleeding and prevent early rebleeding in patients with cirrhosis.
Methods: In a double-blind, prospective trial, 199 patients with cirrhosis and acute variceal bleeding who underwent emergency sclerotherapy were randomly assigned to receive a continuous infusion of octreotide (25 micrograms per hour) or placebo for five days. The primary outcome measure was survival without rebleeding five days after sclerotherapy.
Results: After five days, the proportion of patients who had survived without rebleeding was higher in the octreotide group (85 of 98 patients, or 87 percent) than in the placebo group (72 of 101, or 71 percent; 95 percent confidence interval for the difference, 4 to 27 percent; P = 0.009). The mean number of units of blood transfused within the first 24 hours after sclerotherapy was lower in the octreotide group (1.2 units; range, 0 to 7) than in the placebo group (2.0 units; range, 0 to 10; P = 0.006). A logistic-regression analysis showed that the treatment assignment (P = 0.003) and the number of blood units transfused before any other treatment was undertaken (P = 0.002) were the only two variables independently associated with survival without rebleeding. After adjustment for base-line differences between the two groups, the odds ratio for treatment failure in the placebo group, as compared with the octreotide group, was 3.3 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.5 to 7.3). The mean (+/- SD) 15-day cumulative survival rate (estimated by the Kaplan-Meier method) was 88 +/- 12 percent in both groups. Side effects were minor, and their incidence was similar in the two groups.
Conclusions: In patients with cirrhosis, the combination of sclerotherapy and octreotide is more effective than sclerotherapy alone in controlling acute variceal bleeding, but there is no difference between the overall mortality rates associated with the two approaches to treatment.