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Carvedilol Versus Traditional, Non-selective Beta-blockers For Adults With Cirrhosis And Gastroesophageal Varices.

A. Zacharias, R. Jeyaraj, L. Hobolth, F. Bendtsen, L. Gluud, M. Morgan
Published 2018 · Medicine

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BACKGROUND Non-selective beta-blockers are recommended for the prevention of bleeding in people with cirrhosis, portal hypertension and gastroesophageal varices. Carvedilol is a non-selective beta-blocker with additional intrinsic alpha1-blocking effects, which may be superior to traditional, non-selective beta-blockers in reducing portal pressure and, therefore, in reducing the risk of upper gastrointestinal bleeding. OBJECTIVES To assess the beneficial and harmful effects of carvedilol compared with traditional, non-selective beta-blockers for adults with cirrhosis and gastroesophageal varices. SEARCH METHODS We combined searches in the Cochrane Hepato-Biliary's Controlled Trials Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, Embase, LILACS, and Science Citation Index with manual searches. The last search update was 08 May 2018. SELECTION CRITERIA We included randomised clinical trials comparing carvedilol versus traditional, non-selective beta-blockers, irrespective of publication status, blinding, or language. We included trials evaluating both primary and secondary prevention of upper gastrointestinal bleeding in adults with cirrhosis and verified gastroesophageal varices. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS Three review authors (AZ, RJ and LH), independently extracted data. The primary outcome measures were mortality, upper gastrointestinal bleeding and serious adverse events. We undertook meta-analyses and presented results using risk ratios (RR) or mean differences (MD), both with 95% confidence intervals (CIs), and I2 values as a marker of heterogeneity. We assessed bias control using the Cochrane Hepato-Biliary domains and the quality of the evidence with GRADE. MAIN RESULTS Eleven trials fulfilled our inclusion criteria. One trial did not report clinical outcomes. We included the remaining 10 randomised clinical trials, involving 810 participants with cirrhosis and oesophageal varices, in our analyses. The intervention comparisons were carvedilol versus propranolol (nine trials), or nadolol (one trial). Six trials were of short duration (mean 6 (range 1 to 12) weeks), while four were of longer duration (13.5 (6 to 30) months). Three trials evaluated primary prevention; three evaluated secondary prevention; while four evaluated both primary and secondary prevention. We classified all trials as at 'high risk of bias'. We gathered mortality data from seven trials involving 507 participants; no events occurred in four of these. Sixteen of 254 participants receiving carvedilol and 19 of 253 participants receiving propranolol or nadolol died (RR 0.86, 95% CI 0.48 to 1.53; I2 = 0%, low-quality evidence). There appeared to be no differences between carvedilol versus traditional, non-selective beta-blockers and the risks of upper gastrointestinal bleeding (RR 0.77, 95% CI 0.43 to 1.37; 810 participants; 10 trials; I2 = 45%, very low-quality evidence) and serious adverse events (RR 0.97, 95% CI 0.67 to 1.42; 810 participants; 10 trials; I2 = 14%, low-quality evidence). Significantly more deaths, episodes of upper gastrointestinal bleeding and serious adverse events occurred in the long-term trials but there was not enough information to determine whether there were differences between carvedilol and traditional, non-selective beta-blockers, by trial duration. There was also insufficient information to detect differences in the effects of these interventions in trials evaluating primary or secondary prevention. There appeared to be no differences in the risk of non-serious adverse events between carvedilol versus its comparators (RR 0.55, 95% CI 0.23 to 1.29; 596 participants; 6 trials; I2 = 88%; very low-quality evidence). Use of carvedilol was associated with a greater reduction in hepatic venous pressure gradient than traditional, non-selective beta-blockers both in absolute (MD -1.75 mmHg, 95% CI -2.60 to -0.89; 368 participants; 6 trials; I2 = 0%; low-quality evidence) and percentage terms (MD -8.02%, 95% CI -11.49% to -4.55%; 368 participants; 6 trials; I2 = 0%; low-quality evidence). However, we did not observe a concomitant reduction in the number of participants who failed to achieve a sufficient haemodynamic response (RR 0.76, 95% CI 0.57 to 1.02; 368 participants; 6 trials; I2 = 42%; very low-quality evidence) or in clinical outcomes. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS We found no clear beneficial or harmful effects of carvedilol versus traditional, non-selective beta-blockers on mortality, upper gastrointestinal bleeding, serious or non-serious adverse events despite the fact that carvedilol was more effective at reducing the hepatic venous pressure gradient. However, the evidence was of low or very low quality, and hence the findings are uncertain. Additional evidence is required from adequately powered, long-term, double-blind, randomised clinical trials, which evaluate both clinical and haemodynamic outcomes.
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