Propranolol reduces portal vein diameter in schistosomal liver disease with portal hypertension: A prospective cohort study

Academic Article


  • Hepatosplenic schistosomiasis (HSS) complicates portal hypertension, leading to life-threatening variceal bleeding. Variceal bleeding is associated with increased portal vein diameter (PVD). Beta-blockers prevent variceal bleeding. It is unclear whether beta-blockers such as propranolol can reduce PVD in HSS. We aimed to explore the effect of propranolol on PVD in HSS. A longitudinal study was conducted at the University Teaching Hospital, Zambia, as an extension of a clinical trial of rifaximin undertaken to test the hypothesis that rifaximin could reduce bacterial translocation in HSS. We randomized 85 adults to either rifaximin and standard care, or propranolol-based standard care only for 42 days. We then followed up all the patients on propranolol up to day 180. We used ultrasound to measure PVD at baseline and day 180. The primary outcome was reduction in PVD. Beta-blockade and splenic size reduction were secondary outcomes. Portal vein diameter reduced after 180 days of propranolol therapy from median 12 mm (interquartile range (IQR): 11–14) to median 10 mm (IQR: 9–13) (P < 0.001). The pulse rate reduced from baseline median 70 beats/minute (IQR: 66–80) to 65 beats/minute (IQR: 60–70) by day 180 (P = 0.006). Hemoglobin levels improved from baseline median 8 g/dL (IQR: 6–11) to 12 g/dL (10–14) (P < 0.001). Splenic size remained unchanged. Propranolol led to the reduction in PVD over 180 days. This suggests that ultrasound could be useful in monitoring response and compliance to beta-blockers, especially in resource-constraint areas where portal hypertension measurement facilities are unavailable.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Sinkala E; Vinikoor M; Zyambo K; Besa E; Nsokolo B; Kelly P
  • Start Page

  • 832
  • End Page

  • 837
  • Volume

  • 102
  • Issue

  • 4