Maria Mela, Andrea Mancuso, Professor Andrew Burroughs
Pharmacological treatment of portal hypertension has played an increasing clinical role in the past 20 years. In the setting of acute variceal bleeding, drug therapy should be considered the initial treatment of choice and can be administered as soon as possible; even during the transfer of the patient to hospital. Several recent trials have reported similar efficacy to emergency sclerotherapy, therefore drug treatment should no longer be considered as a "stop gap" therapy until definitive endoscopic therapy is performed but continued for several days. Antibiotic prophylaxis is an integral part of therapy as it reduces mortality and should be instituted from admission. Non selective b-blockers are the treatment of first choice for secondary and primary prevention. If they are contraindicated or non tolerated banding ligation can be used. There is less evidence for the benefit of ligation for primary prophylaxis. The use of haemodynamic targets for reduction in hepatic venous pressure gradient response need further study, and surrogate markers of pressure response need evaluation.
Key words. Portal pressure, oesophageal varices, gastrointestinal Haemorrhage, vasoactive agents, b-blockers