A Randomized study of propranolol on postprandial portal hyperemia in cirrhotic patients

Carlo Sabbá, Giovanna Ferraioli, Paolo Buonamico, Thomas Mahl, Kenneth J W Taylor, Emanuel Lerner, Ottavio Albano, Roberto J. Groszmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Propranolol, a nonselective β-adrenergic blocker, has been shown to reduce portal pressure and the risk of variceal bleeding. The portal pressure-reducing effect of propranolol is mediated by splanchnic arterial constriction, which decreases portal flow. A double-blind randomized control study (crossover on 2 consecutive days) was designed to compare the effects of propranolol vs. placebo on portal flow in cirrhotic patients during fasting and after a standardized meal. Portal flow was measured with an ATL Ultramark 8 echo-Doppler system (Advanced Technological Laboratories, Bothel, WA) in 23 cirrhotic patients. Fasting portal flow and heart rate were obtained at baseline and 2 hours after the administration of propranolol or placebo. A standard test meal was then given, and measurements were repeated 30 minutes later. Thirteen patients (group 1) received placebo on day 1 and propranolol on day 2, whereas 10 patients (group 2) received propranolol on day 1 and placebo on day 2. In group 1 patients, heart rate declined by 20% (P <0.0001) and portal flow decreased by 12% (P <0.05) after propranolol administration. Similar reductions were found in heart rate (-21%, P <0.0001) and portal flow (-17%, P <0.001) for group 2 patients. For all 23 patients, 2 hours after propranolol administration, heart rate declined by 21% (P <0.0001) and portal blood flow was reduced by 14% (P <0.0001). The 10 patients who received propranolol on day 1 (group 2) showed a carryover effect of propranolol on day 2. On day 2, baseline portal flow and heart rate values were significantly lower than baseline values on day 1. This long-lasting effect of a single dose of propranolol may be caused by the longer half-life of propranolol in cirrhotic patients. The postprandial portal blood flow percentage increase after the meal was similar for both placebo and propranolol. Propranolol did not blunt postprandial hyperemia. However, whereas the absolute value of blood flow after the meal increased significantly in comparison with baseline in placebo-treated patients (P <0.001), this did not occur with propranolol. Furthermore, in propranolol-treated patients the absolute value of blood flow after the meal was lower than in placebo-treated patients. This may constitute a protective effect of propranolol in portal hypertension.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1009-1016
Number of pages8
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology

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