Long-term results of a clinical trial of nadolol with or without isosorbide mononitrate for primary prophylaxis of variceal bleeding in cirrhosis



It is clearly established that β-blockers decrease the risk of a first variceal bleeding in cirrhosis. We have recently shown that the addition of isosorbide mononitrate to nadolol decreases the rate of variceal bleeding in patients with cirrhosis and varices, compared with nadolol alone, after a median follow-up of 30 months. It is not established if the long-term treatment with the combination continues to be beneficial. Therefore, we assessed the long-term effect of this combination on first variceal bleeding, complications, and death. One hundred forty-six cirrhotic patients with esophageal varices included in a previously published multicenter, randomized study comparing nadolol (40-160 mg/d) with the combination nadolol plus isosorbide mononitrate (10-20 mg 3 times per day) were followed up for up to 7 years (median follow-up, 55 months). The primary end-point was variceal bleeding of any severity. Twenty-four patients (16 in the nadolol group, and 8 in the combination group) experienced variceal bleeding (log rank test, P = .02). Cumulative risk of bleeding was 29% and 12%, respectively (95% CI for the difference, 1%-23%). Two and 4 patients, respectively, had bleeding from portal hypertensive gastropathy (log rank test, P = .20). Thirty and 25 patients, respectively, died during follow-up (log rank test, P = .13). Twelve and 10 patients, respectively, had de novo occurrence of ascites during follow-up (log rank test, P = .29). In conclusion, nadolol plus isosorbide mononitrate is significantly more effective than nadolol alone in the long-term use. Side effects are few, and no deleterious effects on ascites occurrence or on survival occur after long-term use of this combination.