Mar 092012

Editorial: Beta-blockers and the prevention of decompensation in cirrhosis: worth the trouble.

Am J Gastroenterol. 2012 Mar;107(3):428-30

Authors: Northup PG, Henry ZH

Non-selective beta-blockers have been a cornerstone of therapy for prevention of esophageal variceal bleeding in cirrhosis patients for more than two decades. When lowering the hepatic vein portal pressure gradient (HVPG) below 12?mm?Hg or decreasing the pressure by 20% from baseline, these drugs are of proven benefit in reducing variceal bleeding and improving survival in this patient population. The recent work by Hend√°ndez-Gea et al., suggests that initiation of the beta-blocker nadolol in cirrhosis patients with high-risk varices can delay or prevent the first occurrence of clinically evident ascites. This finding comes with some caveats, however. The beneficial effect was only seen in patients who had an improvement by 10% or more from baseline HVPG pressure (only 51% of the treated patients in this study). This class of medications has some risk and tolerance issues, and many patients do not respond, even when the heart rate is optimally decreased. Despite this, the use of beta-blockers may be beneficial in the primary prevention of the formation of ascites and further decompensation of cirrhosis.

PMID: 22388023 [PubMed - in process]

Link to Article at PubMed


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