Management of esophageal varices in children by endoscopic variceal ligation

J Pediatr Surg. 1996 Aug;31(8):1056-9. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3468(96)90086-x.


Endoscopic variceal sclerotherapy (EVS) has been considered the mainstay of therapy for bleeding esophageal varices in adults. However, recent data have shown that endoscopic variceal ligation (EVL) is just as efficacious and has fewer complications than EVS. Although there are many reports concerning EVL in adults, only a few studies have been done in children. This report describes experience with EVL in 22 children with esophageal variceal hemorrhage. Eighty-seven EVL procedures were performed during a 9-year period in 22 children. The causes of portal hypertension were biliary atresia (10), portal vein thrombosis (8), chronic active hepatitis (1), cirrhosis secondary to cystic fibrosis (2), and primary sclerosing cholangitis (1). The age range at the onset of variceal bleeding was 8 months to 19 years. Twelve patients had EVS before EVL treatment was begun. Distal esophageal varices (one to four per session) were mechanically ligated using an elastic band ligature device attached to a flexible endoscope. The aim of therapy was obliteration of distal esophageal varices by EVL, every 2 to 4 weeks, until eradication. Subsequent EVL was dictated by the status of the varices. Outcome was assessed with respect to survival, rebleeding, status of varices, and complications. The patients underwent a mean of four sessions of EVL (range, one to eight). Four patients subsequently underwent liver transplantation. Of the 18 patients remaining (average follow-up period, 5.3 years), 12 had their varices eradicated (average of four EVL sessions), four are still in treatment, one has not been evaluated in the past 4 years, and one died of liver failure. Complications included bleeding between sessions (6 patients), cervical esophageal perforation (1 patient), and transient fever (2 patients). No child has experienced symptoms of esophageal stenosis or gastroesophageal reflux. Two patients died of liver disease, unrelated to bleeding from portal hypertension. EVL is effective in controlling variceal hemorrhage in children with portal hypertension, regardless of etiology. The complication rate is low, and EVL is an acceptable and perhaps preferable alternative to EVS in children with esophageal varices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Endoscopes
  • Endoscopy / methods*
  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices / etiology
  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices / surgery*
  • Esophagoscopes
  • Esophagoscopy / methods*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Portal / etiology*
  • Infant
  • Ligation
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome