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Propranolol ameliorates thrombocytopenia in patients with cirrhosis.

Author(s): Sakai K, Iwao T, Oho K, Toyonaga A, Sata M

Affiliation(s): Second Department of Medicine, Kurume University School of Medicine, Japan.

Publication date & source: 2002, J Gastroenterol., 37(2):112-8.

Publication type: Clinical Trial; Randomized Controlled Trial

BACKGROUND: Propranolol causes splanchnic arterial vasoconstriction owing to the unopposed alpha vasoconstriction resulting from the blockade of beta-2 adrenoceptors. It is therefore hypothesized that this drug may cause vasoconstriction in the splenic arterial circulation and, thus, modify the manifestations of hypersplenism, such as thrombocytopenia. The aim of the present study was to test this hypothesis. METHODS: Nineteen patients with cirrhosis and thrombocytopenia (fewer than thrombocytes 7 x 10(4)/mm3) were include. The subjects of the study. All of them were studied in the morning after an overnight fast. To evaluate splenic arterial hemodynamics, the pulsatility index was measured by Doppler ultrasonography. Platelet counts and platelet-associated immunoglobulin G levels were also recorded. The subjects were then randomized to receive propranolol (n = 10) or placebo (n = 9). The measurements were repeated after 1 week of propranolol or placebo administration. The dose of propranolol was determined so that a 20% to 25% reduction in heart rate was achieved. RESULTS: Placebo administration caused no significant changes in splenic artery hemodynamics. In contrast, propranolol administration significantly increased the intra splenic artery pulsatility index (from 1.10+/-0.06 to 1.24+/-0.08; P < 0.01). Placebo administration caused no significant changes in the platelet count. In contrast, propranolol administration significantly increased the platelet count (from 4.5+/-0.3 to 6.1+/-0.73 x 10(4)/mm3; P < 0.05). Furthermore, the change in platelet count was significantly correlated with either the change in extrasplenic artery pulsatility index (r = 0.78, P < 0.05) or the change in intrasplenic artery pulsatility index (r = 0.78, P < 0.01). Platelet-associated immunoglobulin G levels were not modified in either of the two groups. CONCLUSIONS: Propranolol ameliorates thrombocytopenia in patients with cirrhosis. This effect may be caused mainly by hemodynamic changes in the spleen, rather than being caused by immunological mechanisms.

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