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Gastroenterology. 1990 Jan;98(1):185-90.

Propranolol in the prevention of recurrent variceal hemorrhage in cirrhotic patients. A controlled trial.

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University Department of Surgery, Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, Scotland.


A double-blind controlled study of long-acting propranolol in the secondary prevention of variceal hemorrhage was conducted in 81 cirrhotic patients. After the index hemorrhage, all patients were treated with injection sclerotherapy on one occasion to secure hemostasis and then randomized within 72 h to propranolol or placebo therapy which was continued for 2 yr. Study endpoints were severe recurrence of variceal hemorrhage or death. Forty-two patients did not fulfill the entry criteria for the study. Thirty-eight patients received propranolol of whom 18 (47%) had further hemorrhage, 14 died, eight had side-effects (2 withdrawals), and 3 did not complete follow-up. Forty-three patients received placebo of whom 33 (77%) had further hemorrhage, 19 died, 5 had side-effects (2 withdrawals), and 5 failed to complete follow-up. The median time from onset of hemorrhage to starting drug therapy was 6 days for both groups. Life table analysis showed an equivalent incidence of further hemorrhage in both groups over the first 60 days, following which the propranolol group did consistently better than the placebo group. There was a significantly lower incidence of rebleeding in modified Child's C patients receiving propranolol (39%) than those on placebo (90%). No statistically significant effect on mortality was seen. In this study, propranolol reduced the incidence of late recurrence of variceal hemorrhage in patients with cirrhosis.

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