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Terlipressin is a safe and effective treatment for bleeding from oesophageal varices which is a life threatening complication of cirrhosis of the liver

Ioannou GN, Doust J, Rockey DC
Published Online: 
21 January 2009

Esophageal varices are abnormal dilatations of veins in the lower part of the swallowing tube (oesophagus) that may develop in patients with chronic liver damage (cirrhosis). Bleeding from these varices is a life threatening complication with mortality between 20 and 50 per cent. Bleeding from varices may be treated with medications and/or with an endoscope which is a flexible tube with a camera at the end which allows direct visualization and treatment of bleeding varices. The reviewers evaluated the safety and effectiveness of a drug called terlipressin: they reported that terlipressin appears to be as safe as other treatments and that terlipressin may reduce the mortality from variceal bleeding as compared to placebo. The reviewers did not have sufficient data to decide whether terlipressin was better or worse than other available treatments such as other drugs (somatostatin, octreotide) or endoscopic treatment.