OBJECTIVE: Non-selective β-blockers or endoscopic band ligation (EBL) are recommended for primary prophylaxis of variceal bleeding in patients with oesophageal varices. Additional α-adrenergic blockade (as by carvedilol) may increase the number of patients with haemodynamic response (reduction in hepatic venous pressure gradient (HVPG) of ≥ 20% or to values
DESIGN: Patients with oesophageal varices undergoing measurement of HVPG before and under propranolol treatment (80-160 mg/day) were included. HVPG responders were kept on propranolol (PROP group), while non-responders were placed on carvedilol (6.25-50 mg/day). Carvedilol responders continued treatment (CARV group), while non-responders to carvedilol underwent EBL. The primary aim was to assess haemodynamic response rates to carvedilol in propranolol non-responders.
RESULTS: 36% (37/104) of patients showed a HVPG response to propranolol. Among the propranolol non-responders 56% (38/67) eventually achieved a haemodynamic response with carvedilol, while 44% (29/67) patients were finally treated with EBL. The decrease in HVPG was significantly greater with carvedilol (median 12.5 mg/day) than with propranolol (median 100 mg/day): -19 ± 10% versus -12 ± 11% (p
CONCLUSIONS: Carvedilol leads to a significantly greater decrease in HVPG than propranolol. Using carvedilol for primary prophylaxis a substantial proportion of non-responders to propranolol can achieve a haemodynamic response, which is associated with improved outcome with regard to prevention of variceal bleeding, hepatic decompensation and death.
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