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Combined therapies vs monotherapies for the first variceal bleeding in high-risk varices

This month's Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology compares combined therapies with monotherapies for the first variceal bleeding in patients with high-risk varices.

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The effect of combined therapies (among non-selected beta-blockers [NSBB], endoscopic therapy, and other treatments) on the first variceal bleeding has been evaluated in several randomized controlled trials previously, and the results were controversial.

Dr Guohong Han and colleagues from China performed this meta-analysis to assess the effect of combined therapies in patients with high-risk varices without previous variceal bleeding.

The Cochrane Library, The Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group Controlled Trials Register, MEDLINE, and EMBASE were searched for eligible trials. Manual searches were also performed for additional studies.

Upper gastrointestinal bleeding, variceal bleeding, mortality, and adverse events were evaluated as end-points by meta-analysis.

Adverse events occurred more frequently in the combined therapy groups
Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology

The researchers identified 12 randomized controlled trials with 1571 patients.

Compared with the NSBB (propranolol or nadolol) or endoscopic therapy alone, all of the combined therapies did not demonstrate significant improvements in variceal bleeding, total upper gastrointestinal bleeding, and mortality.

The research team found that only the combinations of isosorbide-mononitrate or spironolactone with NSBB tended to decrease the risk of variceal bleeding when compared with the use of NSBB alone.

The team observed adverse events more frequently in the combined therapy groups.

Dr Han's team concludes, "Based on the available evidences, no combined therapy can be recommended as the first-line treatment for the primary prevention of variceal bleeding currently."

"Further studies with large sample sizes and long-term follow up are warranted."

J Gastroenterol Hepatol 2014: 29(3): 442–452
20 March 2014

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