Background/aims: Long-term endoscopic injection sclerotherapy of oesophageal varices prevents rebleeding in patients with cirrhosis surviving an acute variceal bleeding episode. However, this treatment is associated with a substantial complication rate. Endoscopic band ligation is a newly developed technique in an attempt to provide a safer alternative. The aim of this study was to compare the efficacy and safety of injection sclerotherapy versus variceal ligation in the management of patients with cirrhosis after variceal haemorrhage.
Methods: Seventy-seven patients with cirrhosis who proved to have oesophageal variceal bleeding were studied. After initial control of haemorrhage by sclerotherapy, 40 of the patients were randomly assigned to sclerotherapy and 37 to ligation. Both procedures were performed under midazolam sedation at intervals of 7-14 days until all varices in the distal oesophagus were eradicated or were too small to receive further treatment.
Results: The eradication of varices required a lower mean number of sessions with ligation (3.7 +/- 1.9) than with sclerotherapy (5.8 +/- 2.7, p = 0.002). The mean duration of follow-up was similar in both groups (15.6 months +/- 7.3 and 15 +/- 7.4, respectively). The proportion of patients remaining free from recurrent bleeding against time was significantly higher in the ligation group as compared to the sclerotherapy group (chi 2 = 3.86, p = 0.05). Only 13 patients (35%) developed complications in the ligation group as compared to 24 (60%, p = 0.05) in the sclerotherapy group. The mortality rate was similar in both groups (20% and 21%, respectively).
Conclusions: Variceal ligation is better than sclerotherapy in the long-term management of patients with cirrhosis after variceal haemorrhage which was initially controlled with sclerotherapy.