Does elective sclerotherapy improve the efficacy of long-term propranolol for prevention of recurrent bleeding in patients with severe cirrhosis? A prospective multicenter, randomized trial



We conducted a prospective, multicenter, randomized trial to compare the efficacy of sclerotherapy plus propranolol with that of propranolol alone in the prevention of recurrent gastroesophageal bleeding in severely cirrhotic patients. For 2 yr (1987 to 1988) 131 patients (96% of whom were alcoholic) with Child-Pugh class B or C cirrhosis (56% were class B and 44% were class C) were randomly assigned to one of our two treatment groups after cessation of variceal bleeding, without hemostatic sclerosis, and were observed for at least 2 yr. Treatment observance was good in 89% of cases; alcohol withdrawal was observed in 62% of cases. Sclerotherapy was performed weekly with 1% polidocanol, and variceal obliteration was obtained in 83% of cases, in a mean number of four sessions. The cumulative percentages (expressed as mean ± S.D.) of recurrent bleeding at 2 yr were 42% ± 6% for propranolol plus sclerotherapy and 59% ± 6% for propranolol alone (a nonsignificant difference). Twentyeight patients from the propranolol group but only 12 patients from the propranolol-plus-sclerotherapy group had recurrent bleeding from esophageal variceal rupture (p < 0.01). The total number of blood units per patient with recurrent bleeding was slightly but not significantly more important in the propranolol group (8 ± 7) than in the propranolol-plus-sclerotherapy group (5 ± 5; p = 0.09). There were no statistical differences in the cumulative survival rate at 2 yr (propranolol plus sclerotherapy, 74% ± 6% and propranolol alone, 64% ± 6%) or in the number of patients who died of repeat bleeding (propranolol plus sclerotherapy, 13% ± 4% and propranolol alone, 17% ± 5%). Among the surviving patients, cirrhosis improved during the follow-up; Child-Pugh classification was the following at 1 mo: 35% for class A, 50% for class B and 15% for class C and the following at 2 yr: 58% for class A, 38% for class B and 4% for class C. In conclusion, elective sclerotherapy does not significantly decrease the rate of recurrent bleeding or death in severely cirrhotic patients who are treated with propranolol and who mainly abstain from drinking alcohol. (HEPATOLOGY 1992;16:912–919.)