Division of Paediatrics, Evidence-based Health Care Programme, Escuela de Medicina, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile. Gastroenterology and Nutrition Department, Division of Paediatrics, Escuela de Medicina, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile. Sistema de Bibliotecas UC, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile.
The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 2021;1:Cd011561
BACKGROUND Portal hypertension commonly accompanies advanced liver disease and often gives rise to life-threatening complications, including bleeding (haemorrhage) from oesophageal and gastrointestinal varices. Variceal bleeding commonly occurs in children and adolescents with chronic liver disease or portal vein thrombosis. Prevention is, therefore, important. Randomised clinical trials have shown that non-selective beta-blockers and endoscopic variceal band ligation decrease the incidence of
variceal bleeding in adults. In children and adolescents, band ligation, beta-blockers, and sclerotherapy have been proposed as primary prophylaxis alternatives for oesophageal variceal bleeding. However, it is unknown whether these interventions are of benefit or harm when used for primary prophylaxis in children and adolescents. OBJECTIVES To assess the benefits and harms of band ligation compared with sham or no intervention for primary prophylaxis of oesophageal variceal bleeding in children and adolescents with chronic liver disease or portal vein thrombosis. SEARCH METHODS We searched the Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group Controlled Trials Register, CENTRAL, PubMed, Embase, and two other databases (April 2020). We scrutinised the reference lists of the retrieved publications, and we also handsearched abstract books of the two main paediatric gastroenterology and hepatology conferences from January 2008 to December 2019. We also searched clinicaltrials.gov, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) for ongoing clinical trials. We imposed no language or document type restrictions on our search. SELECTION CRITERIA We aimed to include randomised clinical trials irrespective of blinding, language, or publication status, to assess the benefits and harms of band ligation versus sham or no intervention for primary prophylaxis of oesophageal variceal bleeding in children with chronic liver disease or portal vein thrombosis. If the search for randomised clinical trials retrieved quasi-randomised and other observational studies, then we read them through to extract information on harm. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS We used standard Cochrane methodology to perform this systematic review. We used GRADE to assess the certainty of evidence for each outcome. Our primary outcomes were all-cause mortality, serious adverse events and liver-related morbidity, and quality of life. Our secondary outcomes were oesophageal variceal bleeding and adverse events not considered serious. We used the intention-to-treat principle. We analysed data using Review Manager 5. MAIN RESULTS One conference abstract, describing a feasibility multi-centre randomised clinical trial, fulfilled our review inclusion criteria. We judged the trial at overall high risk of bias. This trial was conducted in three hospital centres in the United Kingdom. The aim of the trial was to determine the feasibility and safety of further larger randomised clinical trials of prophylactic band ligation versus no active treatment in children with portal hypertension and large oesophageal varices. Twelve children received prophylactic band ligation and 10 children received no active treatment. There was no information on the age of the children included, or about the diagnosis of any child included. All children were followed up for at least six months. Mortality was 8% (1/12) in the band ligation group versus 0% (0/10) in the no active intervention group (risk ratio (RR) 2.54, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.11 to 56.25; very low certainty of evidence). The abstract did not report when the death occurred, but we assume it happened between the six-month follow-up and one year. No child (0%) in the band ligation group developed adverse events (RR 0.28, 95% CI 0.01 to 6.25; very low certainty of evidence) but one child out of 10 (10%) in the no active intervention group developed idiopathic thrombocytopaenic purpura. One child out of 12 (8%) in the band ligation group underwent liver transplantation versus none in the no active intervention group (0%) (RR 2.54, 95% CI 0.11 to 56.25; very low certainty of evidence). The trial reported no other serious adverse events or liver-related morbidity. Quality of life was not reported. Oesophageal variceal bleeding occurred in 8% (1/12) of the children in the band ligation group versus 30% (3/10) of the children in the no active intervention group (RR 0.28, 95% CI 0.03 to 2.27; very low certainty of evidence). No adverse events considered non-serious were reported. Two children were lost to follow-up by one-year. Ten children in total completed the trial at two-year follow-up. There was no information on funding. We found two observational studies on endoscopic variceal ligation when searching for randomised trials. One found no harm, and the other reported E nterobacter cloacae septicaemia in one child and mild, transient, upper oesophageal sphincter stenosis in another. We did not assess these studies for risk of bias. We did not find any ongoing randomised clinical trials of interest to our review. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS The evidence, obtained from only one feasibility randomised clinical trial at high risk of bias, is very scanty. It is very uncertain about whether prophylactic band ligation versus sham or no (active) intervention may affect mortality, serious adverse events and liver-related morbidity, or oesophageal variceal bleeding in children and adolescents with portal hypertension and large oesophageal varices. We have no data on quality of life. No adverse events considered non-serious were reported. The results presented in the trial need to be interpreted with caution. In addition, the highly limited data cover only part of our research question; namely, children with portal hypertension and large oesophageal varices. Data on children with portal vein thrombosis are lacking. Larger randomised clinical trials assessing the benefits and harms of band ligation compared with sham treatment for primary prophylaxis of oesophageal variceal bleeding in children and adolescents with chronic liver disease or portal vein thrombosis are needed. The trials should include important clinical outcomes such as death, quality of life, failure to control bleeding, and adverse events.