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Cirrhosis: Vasoconstrictor Medicines for Variceal Bleeding

Topic Overview

Medicines that constrict small blood vessels and reduce blood flow to the portal vein are used to treat sudden (acute) bleeding from enlarged veins (varices) in the digestive tract (variceal bleeding).

Octreotide is the main medicine used in North America to treat variceal bleeding.

These medicines also may be used along with endoscopic treatment. Adding medicine to endoscopic treatment works better to control bleeding than endoscopic treatment alone.footnote 1

Side effects of these medicines may include:

  • Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias).
  • Headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Too much sugar in the blood (hyperglycemia).
  • Diarrhea.
  • Formation of gallstones (with long-term use).

References

Citations

  1. Garcia-Tsao G, et al. (2007). Prevention and management of gastroesophageal varices and variceal hemorrhage in cirrhosis. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 102(9): 2086–2102.

Credits

Current as ofMarch 27, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine
W. Thomas London, MD - Internal Medicine, Hepatology