Oral metoprolol, in a dose sufficient to reduce resting pulse rate by 25%, was compared with repeated injection sclerotherapy for the long term management of variceal bleeding. The prospective, randomised study was undertaken in 32 patients with biopsy proven cirrhosis and variceal bleeding who were Grade A or B on a modified Child's classification. In the 15 patients receiving metoprolol, portal pressure showed a mean fall of 3.7 mmHg (17.3 +/- 1.2 to 13.6 +/- 1.2 mmHg, p less than 0.01) after four weeks of continuous therapy, as compared with pretreatment levels. Nine of the 15 patients taking metoprolol had further bleeding (total of 21 episodes) compared with six of 17 in the sclerotherapy group (nine episodes). The risk of bleeding per patient/month of follow up was three times higher in the metoprolol group compared with those treated by sclerotherapy (0.14 and 0.04 respectively, p less than 0.025). Rebleeding in the metoprolol group occurred in six of the patients who had a fall in portal pressure of 10% or more.
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