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Balloon tamponade technique and efficacy in variceal haemorrhage.

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  • 1II Dept. of Gastroenterology, Evangelismos Hospital, Athens, Greece.



The option of using direct compression to arrest haemorrhage from an oesophageal varix was introduced by Westphal in 1930. Since then, different types of oesophageal and or gastric balloons have become available for use. The published data concerning the efficacy and complications of the balloon tamponade in the treatment of variceal haemorrhage is evaluated. METHOD-RESULTS: Balloon tamponade as a single therapy may control initial variceal haemorrhage in more than 80% of cases. However, haemostasis is usually transient and is associated with a high rate of complications. As regards the comparison of balloon tamponade with vasoactive drugs such as vasopressin alone or vasopressin + terlipressin or terlipressin + nitroglycerin, it appears that both regimens are comparable in respect to initial control of bleeding, rebleeding, mortality, and complications. There is also evidence suggesting that balloon tamponade is as equally effective as octreotide and somatostatin in the initial control of variceal haemorrhage, but early rebleeding and complications are significantly less with the administration of both drugs. Finally, it appears that balloon tamponade is inferior to endoscopic sclerotherapy in both the acute and the long-term control of variceal haemorrhage.


Balloon tamponade should be reserved for those patients with variceal haemorrhage in whom bleeding continues despite conservative treatment, or as the first form of treatment only if sclerotherapy is not available.

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