Background: Approximately 40% to 95% of people with cirrhosis have oesophageal varices. About 15% to 20% of oesophageal varices bleed in about one to three years of diagnosis. Several different treatments are available, which include endoscopic sclerotherapy, variceal band ligation, beta-blockers, transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS), and surgical portocaval shunts, among others. However, there is uncertainty surrounding their individual and relative benefits and harms. Objectives: To compare the benefits and harms of different initial treatments for secondary prevention of variceal bleeding in adults with previous oesophageal variceal bleeding due to decompensated liver cirrhosis through a network meta-analysis and to generate rankings of the different treatments for secondary prevention according to their safety and efficacy. Search methods: We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, Science Citation Index Expanded, World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, and trials registers until December 2019 to identify randomised clinical trials in people with cirrhosis and a previous history of bleeding from oesophageal varices. Selection criteria: We included only randomised clinical trials (irrespective of language, blinding, or status) in adults with cirrhosis and previous history of bleeding from oesophageal varices. We excluded randomised clinical trials in which participants had no previous history of bleeding from oesophageal varices, previous history of bleeding only from gastric varices, those who failed previous treatment (refractory bleeding), those who had acute bleeding at the time of treatment, and those who had previously undergone liver transplantation. Data collection and analysis: We performed a network meta-analysis with OpenBUGS using Bayesian methods and calculated the differences in treatments using hazard ratios (HR), odds ratios (OR) and rate ratios with 95% credible intervals (CrI) based on an available-case analysis, according to National Institute of Health and Care Excellence Decision Support Unit guidance. Main results: We included a total of 48 randomised clinical trials (3526 participants) in the review. Forty-six trials (3442 participants) were included in one or more comparisons. The trials that provided the information included people with cirrhosis due to varied aetiologies. The follow-up ranged from two months to 61 months. All the trials were at high risk of bias. A total of 12 interventions were compared in these trials (sclerotherapy, beta-blockers, variceal band ligation, beta-blockers plus sclerotherapy, no active intervention, TIPS (transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt), beta-blockers plus nitrates, portocaval shunt, sclerotherapy plus variceal band ligation, beta-blockers plus nitrates plus variceal band ligation, beta-blockers plus variceal band ligation, sclerotherapy plus nitrates). Overall, 22.5% of the trial participants who received the reference treatment (chosen because this was the commonest treatment compared in the trials) of sclerotherapy died during the follow-up period ranging from two months to 61 months. There was considerable uncertainty in the effects of interventions on mortality. Accordingly, none of the interventions showed superiority over another. None of the trials reported health-related quality of life. Based on low-certainty evidence, variceal band ligation may result in fewer serious adverse events (number of people) than sclerotherapy (OR 0.19; 95% CrI 0.06 to 0.54; 1 trial; 100 participants). Based on low or very low-certainty evidence, the adverse events (number of participants) and adverse events (number of events) may be different across many comparisons; however, these differences are due to very small trials at high risk of bias showing large differences in some comparisons leading to many differences despite absence of direct evidence. Based on low-certainty evidence, TIPS may result in large decrease in symptomatic rebleed than variceal band ligation (HR 0.12; 95% CrI 0.03 to 0.41; 1 trial; 58 participants). Based on moderate-certainty evidence, any variceal rebleed was probably lower in sclerotherapy than in no active intervention (HR 0.62; 95% CrI 0.35 to 0.99, direct comparison HR 0.66; 95% CrI 0.11 to 3.13; 3 trials; 296 participants), beta-blockers plus sclerotherapy than sclerotherapy alone (HR 0.60; 95% CrI 0.37 to 0.95; direct comparison HR 0.50; 95% CrI 0.07 to 2.96; 4 trials; 231 participants); TIPS than sclerotherapy (HR 0.18; 95% CrI 0.08 to 0.38; direct comparison HR 0.22; 95% CrI 0.01 to 7.51; 2 trials; 109 participants), and in portocaval shunt than sclerotherapy (HR 0.21; 95% CrI 0.05 to 0.77; no direct comparison) groups. Based on low-certainty evidence, beta-blockers alone and TIPS might result in more, other compensation, events than sclerotherapy (rate ratio 2.37; 95% CrI 1.35 to 4.67; 1 trial; 65 participants and rate ratio 2.30; 95% CrI 1.20 to 4.65; 2 trials; 109 participants; low-certainty evidence). The evidence indicates considerable uncertainty about the effect of the interventions including those related to beta-blockers plus variceal band ligation in the remaining comparisons. Authors' conclusions: The evidence indicates considerable uncertainty about the effect of the interventions on mortality. Variceal band ligation might result in fewer serious adverse events than sclerotherapy. TIPS might result in a large decrease in symptomatic rebleed than variceal band ligation. Sclerotherapy probably results in fewer 'any' variceal rebleeding than no active intervention. Beta-blockers plus sclerotherapy and TIPS probably result in fewer 'any' variceal rebleeding than sclerotherapy. Beta-blockers alone and TIPS might result in more other compensation events than sclerotherapy. The evidence indicates considerable uncertainty about the effect of the interventions in the remaining comparisons. Accordingly, high-quality randomised comparative clinical trials are needed.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We acknowledge the help and support of the Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group, Cochrane Central Editorial Unit, and copy editors. The authors would also like to thank the peer reviewers listed below who provided comments to improve the review. Peer reviewers of protocol: Erwin Biecker, Germany; David Hoaglin, USA?Peer reviewers of review: Erwin Biecker, Germany; David Hoaglin, USA; Roberto de Franchis, Italy; Sarika Parambath, Australia?Contact Editor: Christian Gluud, Denmark?Sign-off Editor: Goran Hauser, Croatia?Statistical Editor (Methods Support Unit, Editorial & Methods Department): Kerry Dwan, UK?Cochrane Abdominal and Endocrine Network Editor: Rachel Richardson; UK Cochrane Review Group funding acknowledgement: the Danish State is the largest single funder of the Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group through its investment in the Copenhagen Trial Unit, Centre for Clinical Intervention Research, the Capital Region of Denmark, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark. This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Systematic Reviews Programme (project number 16/114/17) and was supported by the Complex Reviews Support Unit, also funded by the National Institute for Health Research (project number 14/178/29). The views and opinions expressed therein are those of the review authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the 16/114/17 or 14/178/29 Programmes, the NIHR, the NHS, or the Department of Health. The views and opinions expressed in this review are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Danish State or The Copenhagen Trial Unit.
Copyright © 2021 The Cochrane Collaboration. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)