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      Dose-dependent effect of propranolol on the hemodynamic response in cirrhotic patients with gastroesophageal varices

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          Propranolol is always titrated to the maximum tolerated dose to prevent gastroesophageal variceal bleeding. However, some patients do not achieve a hemodynamic response and experience more intolerance and discontinuation. This study evaluated the dose-dependent effect of propranolol on hemodynamic response and tolerance in cirrhotic patients.

          Patients and methods

          This retrospective study included 95 consecutive patients recruited from our prospective database. After hepatic venous pressure gradient measurement, patients received propranolol 10 mg, twice daily increased 10 mg daily until to 80 or 120 mg/day. Secondary hepatic venous pressure gradient was also measured. For nonresponders at 80 mg/day, propranolol was titrated to 120 mg/day.


          For 58 patients, propranolol was titrated to 80 mg/day, whereas for 37 patients, it was titrated to 120 mg/day. Hemodynamic response was similar in both groups (50 vs. 54.1%, P=0.700). Eighteen of the 29 nonresponders at propranolol 80 mg/day received a dose of 120 mg/day. Two patients achieved a hemodynamic response, but two could not tolerate the dose. Nine (15.5%) patients achieved the target dose of propranolol at 80 mg/day, whereas 16 (43.2%) patients at 120 mg/day achieved this ( P=0.003). The difference in patients achieving the target dose between responders and nonresponders was not significant (14 vs. 14, P=0.642). Reduction or discontinuation was required by two (6.9%) patients using 80 mg/day propranolol and six (30%) patients using 120 mg/day propranolol ( P=0.032).


          There is no dose-dependent effect of 80–120 mg/day of propranolol on the hemodynamic response in cirrhotic patients with gastroesophageal varices. This indicates that low-dose propranolol below the target dose might lead to a considerable hemodynamic response and is much safer and well tolerated.

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          Most cited references 17

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          Pharmacological treatment of portal hypertension: an evidence-based approach.

          Continuing advances in the knowledge of the pathophysiology of portal hypertension result in the progressive expansion of the spectrum of drugs with a potential role for clinical practice, with objectives that now tend to include the prevention of the enlargement or even the development of esophageal varices. This systematic review summarizes the evidence of efficacy of drug therapy for portal hypertension and draws recommendations for clinical practice. Although there is not yet enough evidence to support the treatment for the prevention of the development or enlargement of varices, nonselective beta-blockers are the first-choice therapy to prevent the first bleeding in patients with medium or large-sized varices and rebleeding in patients surviving a bleeding episode. The clinical role of isosorbide-5-mononitrate either alone or in association with beta-blockers still remains unsettled. Vasoactive drugs are generally effective and safe in controlling acute variceal bleeding, although the evidence is not equivalent for each of them.
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            Carvedilol for primary prophylaxis of variceal bleeding in cirrhotic patients with haemodynamic non-response to propranolol.

            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 <12 mm Hg). 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. 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<0.001). During a 2 year follow-up bleeding rates for PROP were 11% versus CARV 5% versus EBL 25% (p=0.0429). Fewer episodes of hepatic decompensation (PROP 38%/CARV 26% vs EBL 55%; p=0.0789) and significantly lower mortality (PROP 14%/CARV 11% vs EBL 31%; p=0.0455) were observed in haemodynamic responders compared to the EBL group. 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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              Pharmacological reduction of portal pressure and long-term risk of first variceal bleeding in patients with cirrhosis.

              A reduction in hepatic venous pressure gradient (HVPG) of > or =20% of baseline or to < or =12 mmHg (responders) is associated with a reduced risk of first variceal bleeding. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether this protective effect is maintained in the long term and if it extends to other portal hypertension complications. Seventy-one cirrhotic patients with esophageal varices and without previous variceal bleeding who entered into a program of prophylactic pharmacological therapy and were followed for up to 8 yr were evaluated. All had two separate HVPG measurements, at baseline and after pharmacological therapy with propranolol +/- isosorbide mononitrate. Forty-six patients were nonresponders and 25 were responders. Eight-year cumulative probability of being free of first variceal bleeding was higher in responders than in nonresponders (90% vs 45%, p= 0.026). The lack of hemodynamic response and low platelet count were the only independent predictors of first variceal bleeding. Additionally, reduction of HVPG was independently associated with a decreased risk of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP) or bacteremia. No significant differences in the development of ascites, hepatic encephalopathy, or survival were observed. The hemodynamic response in cirrhotic patients is associated with a sustained reduction in the risk of first variceal bleeding over a long-term follow-up. Reduction of HVPG also correlate with a reduced risk of SBP or bacteremia.

                Author and article information

                Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol
                Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol
                European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology
                Lippincott Williams And Wilkins
                March 2019
                13 November 2018
                : 31
                : 3
                : 368-374
                [a ]Department of Gastroenterology, Nanjing Medical University Drum Tower Clinical Medical School
                [b ]Department of Gastroenterology, Affiliated Drum Tower Hospital of Nanjing University Medical School, Nanjing, Jiangsu, China
                Author notes
                Correspondence to Yuzheng Zhuge, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Nanjing Medical University Drum Tower Clinical Medical School, 321#, Zhongshan Road, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210008, China Tel: +86 258 310 5206, +86 159 9628 9206; fax: +86 258 330 4616; e-mail: yuzheng9111963@
                Copyright © 2018 The Author(s). Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License 4.0 (CCBY-NC-ND), where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially without permission from the journal.

                Original Articles: Hepatology
                Custom metadata

                propranolol, liver cirrhosis, hemodynamic response, dose


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