Vasoconstrictor medicines to treat variceal bleeding

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 the United States 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.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).

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.

Last Updated: January 22, 2010

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