RESEARCH SUPPORT, N.I.H., EXTRAMURAL
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Alcoholic versus nonalcoholic cirrhosis in a randomized controlled trial of emergency therapy of bleeding varices.

BACKGROUND: It has been proposed that portal-systemic shunts be avoided in alcoholic cirrhotics because survival rate is allegedly lower in alcoholics than in nonalcoholics. We examined this issue in a randomized controlled trial.

METHODS: Two hundred eleven unselected, consecutive patients with cirrhosis and bleeding esophageal varices were randomized to endoscopic sclerotherapy (EST) (n = 106) or emergency portacaval shunt (EPCS) (105). Treatment was initiated within 8 h. EST failure was treated by rescue portacaval shunt (PCS). Ten-year follow-up was 96%.

RESULTS: Results strongly favored EPCS over EST (P < 0.001). Among EPCS patients, 83% were alcoholic and 17% nonalcoholic. Outcomes were (1) permanent control of bleeding 100% versus 100%; (2) 5-y survival 71% versus 78%; (3) encephalopathy 14% versus 19%; (4) yearly charges $38,300 versus $43,000.

CONCLUSIONS: EPCS results were similar in alcoholic and nonalcoholic cirrhotics. EPCS is an effective first line emergency treatment in all forms of cirrhosis, including alcoholic.

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