Background & Aims: Although sclerotherapy is the current standard therapy for bleeding esophageal varices, the best method for initial control is unclear. The aim of this meta-analysis was to compare the efficacy and toxicity of somatostatin and vasopressin in short-term treatment of hemorrhage from esophageal varices. Methods: Using MEDLINE, all randomized trials comparing somatostatin with vasopressin in subjects with endoscopically documented acute esophageal variceal bleeding were identified. The quality of each study was critically and independently evaluated, and quantitative data for initial cessation of bleeding, sustained control of bleeding, and major adverse effects were abstracted. The relative risk (RR) and number needed to be treated were calculated. Results: The RR or likelihood of achieving initial control of bleeding with somatostatin vs. vasopressin was 1.62 (95% confidence interval [Cl], 1.37-1.93), and the number needed to be treated was 3.7, i.e., between 3 and 4 patients would have to be treated with somatostatin for 1 patient to derive additional benefit over vasopressin. For trials that measured sustained control of bleeding, somatostatin was superior to vasopressin (RR, 1.28 [95% Cl, 1.00-1.65]; number needed to be treated, 8.8). The risk of adverse effects was greater for subjects given vasopressin (10% vs. 0%; P = 0.00007). Conclusions: This meta-analysis suggests that somatostatin is more efficacious in controlling acute hemorrhage from esophageal varices and has a lower risk of adverse effects than vasopressin.
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