Patients who have bled from varices remain at risk for rebleeding. There is interest in methods that would enable rapid eradication of varices. The present trial was designed to study whether combining ligation with sclerotherapy will allow quicker eradication of varices than either modality alone. Patients with bleeding esophageal varices were randomized into ligation or combination therapy groups. Patients in the ligation group were treated with endoscopic rubber band ligation alone. In combination group patients, each variceal column was ligated distally and 1 mL of ethanolamine was injected proximal to each ligated site. Subsequent treatment sessions were at 7- to 14-day intervals until varices were eradicated. The clinical and endoscopic characteristics of 25 patients in the ligation group were similar to those of 22 patients in the combination group. Follow-up was up to 30 months. Active bleeding was controlled in 100% of patients in the ligation group and 75% of those in combination group (P = NS). It took 3.3 ± .4 (range, 1-7) sessions to eradicate varices with ligation and 4.1 ± .6 (1-7) with combination therapy (P = NS). Survival (four deaths in ligation group, 8 in combination group), rebleeding rate (25% vs. 36%), and varix recurrence (16% vs. 23%) also were similar. There were more complications with combination therapy, including deep ulcers (65% vs. 20%; P < .05); dysphagia (30% vs. 0%; P < .05), with three strictures requiring dilation; and pain (30% vs. 10%; P = NS). Our results show that sclerotherapy combined with ligation offers no benefit over ligation alone. The higher complication rate with combination therapy does not warrant this approach.
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