Study Objective: To define the roles of endoscopic variceal sclerosis and distal splenorenal shunt in the prevention of recurrent variceal bleeding in patients with cirrhosis.
Design: A prospective, randomized clinical trial with crossover for those failing therapy. The median follow-up was 61 months.
Setting: A private, tertiary-referral university hospital.
Patients: Seventy-two patients fulfilling inclusion criteria were drawn from a total of 420 patients treated during a 4.5-year interval.
Treatments: Endoscopic variceal sclerosis or distal splenorenal shunt.
Measurements and Main Results: Survival was significantly (P = 0.02) improved in patients randomly assigned to receive sclerotherapy: 13 of these 37 (35%) patients failed sclerotherapy and required surgical rescue. A survival advantage (P = 0.01) was seen in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis who had this combined therapy; however, in patients with nonalcoholic cirrhosis, survival for those receiving sclerotherapy and surgical rescue was not significantly (P = 0.36) different from that of patients receiving distal splenorenal shunt. Control of variceal bleeding was significantly (P < 0.001) better in the distal splenorenal shunt group (34 of 35 [97%] compared with 15 of 37 [41%] in the sclerotherapy group). Using death, uncontrolled rebleeding, or shunt thrombosis as the endpoints resulted in no significant difference between treatment groups. Hepatocyte function and portal perfusion were significantly better maintained in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis who were managed by sclerotherapy rather than shunt (P = 0.01 and P = 0.001, respectively).
Conclusions: Endoscopic sclerotherapy with surgical rescue for uncontrolled bleeding is the optimum therapy for patients with alcoholic cirrhosis and variceal bleeding. Survival is similar in nonalcoholic patients treated with either distal splenorenal shunt or endoscopic sclerotherapy, but shunting provides better control of variceal bleeding.