For 25 years the optimal management of bleeding oesophageal varices has included endoscopic injection sclerotherapy (EIS) both to arrest bleeding and to prevent rebleeding. However, the recent innovation of endoscopic variceal ligation (EVL) may be a more effective treatment; this paper reviews its efficacy.
All Medline (National Library of Medicine, Washington DC, USA) articles containing the text words ‘oesophageal varices’, ‘sclerotherapy’ or ‘band ligation’ were reviewed. Prospective randomized studies comparing sclerotherapy with band ligation, or combinations thereof, were included.
After an acute variceal bleed EVL is as effective as EIS for control and eradication of oesophageal varices. Initial control of bleeding is similar, but eradication is achieved in fewer sessions with EVL. EVL is associated with lower rebleeding rates and fewer procedure-related complications; it is also more effective for control of active bleeding at initial endoscopy. Combination therapy (EIS plus EVL) confers no advantage over EVL alone.
EVL is similar to EIS for control of bleeding varices, but the former has less associated morbidity, lower rebleeding rates and achieves more rapid variceal eradication. EVL should be considered the endoscopic treatment of choice in the management of variceal haemorrhage. © 1999 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd