Prevention of the development of varices and first portal hypertensive bleeding episode.Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2007; 21(1):31-42.BP
Variceal bleeding is a serious complication in patients with cirrhosis. Although bleeding related mortality rates have fallen recently, it continues to be amongst the leading causes of death. Cirrhotics should be screened for varices at diagnosis. Data on preventing formation/growth of oesophageal varices (pre-primary prophylaxis) are conflicting, with insufficient evidence to use beta-blockers. In order to prevent first bleeding, there is strong evidence in patients with medium/large size oesophageal varices that either non-selective beta-blockers or banding ligation can be used. Banding is superior with respect to bleeding but mortality is similar. Non-selective beta-blockers should remain first line treatment being effective, cheap and without serious complications. In contrast banding ligation is more expensive, requires specialised staff, cannot prevent bleeding from portal hypertensive gastropathy and can cause iatrogenic bleeding. Patients with small varices, particularly if they have progressive liver disease also benefit from beta-blockers, but fewer studies confirm this therapeutic approach.