Pharmacologic therapy for gastrointestinal bleeding due to portal hypertension and esophageal varices
- Cite this article as:
- Rockey, D.C. Curr Gastroenterol Rep (2006) 8: 7. doi:10.1007/s11894-006-0058-9
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Cirrhosis results in portal hypertension in many patients. The major complications of portal hypertension include development of ascites and esophageal or gastric varices. Varices lead to hemorrhage and death in a significant proportion of patients. This review focuses on the pharmacologic approach to management of portal hypertension in patients at risk of variceal hemorrhage, or those who have already had variceal bleeding. Pharmacologic therapy is used for 1) primary prevention of bleeding, 2) management of acute bleeding, and 3) prevention of recurrent bleeding (secondary prophylaxis). For acute esophageal variceal hemorrhage, a variety of pharmacologic agents are used, including somatostatin, octreotide, vapreotide, lanreotide, terlipressin, and vasopressin (with nitrates). For primary and secondary prevention of esophageal variceal hemorrhage, a-blockers remain the mainstay therapy.