Clinical Investigation| Volume 351, ISSUE 2, P169-176, February 2016

The Beneficial Effect of Beta-Blockers in Patients With Cirrhosis, Portal Hypertension and Ascites



      Patients with cirrhosis and portal hypertensive complications have reduced survival. As such, it has been suggested that nonselective beta-blocker therapy in patients with advanced ascites is harmful. The aim of this study was, therefore, to determine the risk of mortality in patients with cirrhosis and ascites taking nonselective beta-blocker therapy for the prevention of variceal hemorrhage.

      Materials and Methods

      This study was a retrospective analysis of 2,419 patients with cirrhosis and portal hypertension admitted to Parkland Memorial Hospital (a university-affiliated county teaching hospital) from 2003-2010. Patients were subdivided into those with varices only, ascites only and those with both varices and ascites. The primary outcome measure for this study was all-cause in-hospital mortality.


      Overall, 68 of 1,039 (6.5%) patients taking beta-blockers died during their hospitalization, while 223 of 1,380 (16.2%) patients not taking beta-blockers died (P < 0.001). Beta-blocker use was also assessed in specific cohorts; mortality was 21.1% in patients with severe ascites with varices who were not taking beta-blockers compared with 8.9% in patients who were taking beta-blockers (P = 0.05). Overall, fewer patients taking beta-blockers died compared with those not taking beta-blockers in patients with varices only (6.4% versus 12.1%) and those with ascites with or without varices (6.6% versus 18.1%) (P < 0.001).


      Mortality was lower in patients with cirrhosis and portal hypertension taking nonselective beta-blockers than in those not taking beta-blockers. The use of nonselective beta-blockers provided a significant survival benefit in patients with all grades of ascites, including those with severe ascites.

      Key Indexing Terms

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