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Baillieres Clin Gastroenterol. 1992 Sep;6(3):451-63.

Balloon tamponade and vasoactive drugs in the control of acute variceal haemorrhage.

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  • 1University Department of Surgery, Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, UK.


Successful pharmacological arrest of haemorrhage might avoid the risk of aspiration associated with tamponade and early studies have suggested that the vasoactive agent somatostatin may be as effective and perhaps safer than tamponade in controlling variceal haemorrhage. In our view, vasopressin has not established a role in management but we retain an open mind regarding the potential use of terlipressin in combination with nitroglycerin. It is unlikely that any of these agents can improve significantly our ability to control variceal haemorrhage when compared to balloon tamponade but they may reduce the incidence of pulmonary complications and thereby reduce subsequent mortality. Tamponade has proved successful in controlling acute haemorrhage from oesophageal varices in our hands. Late complications continue to give cause for concern but until effective safe alternatives to tamponade are developed, we continue to advocate its use for emergency control of acute variceal haemorrhage. Our own studies have shown that the high mortality seen in this patient population may reflect the severity of the underlying liver disease rather than failure of a management policy employing oesophageal tamponade for the initial control of acute variceal haemorrhage.

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