Effects of the adjunctive probiotic VSL#3 on portal haemodynamics in patients with cirrhosis and large varices: a randomized trial

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Probiotics, by altering gut flora, may favourably alter portal haemodynamics in patients with cirrhosis.


To investigate the effect of probiotics on portal pressure in patients with cirrhosis.


Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial conducted in G.B. Pant Hospital, New Delhi. A total of 94 cirrhotic patients having large oesophageal varices without history of variceal bleeding were randomized to three treatment groups and given 2 months' treatment with propranolol plus placebo, propranolol plus antibiotics (norfloxacin 400 mg BD) or propranolol plus probiotic (VSL#3, 900 billion/day) randomly assigned in 1:1:1 ratio. Outcome measures were change in Hepatic venous pressure gradient (HVPG): Response rate (Percentage of patients having a decrease from baseline of ≥20% or to ≤12 mm Hg) and changes from baseline; biochemical markers of inflammation: changes from baseline.


Adjunctive probiotics increased the response rate compared with propranolol alone (58% vs. 31%, P = 0.046), similar to adjunctive antibiotics (54%). The mean fall in HVPG was greater with either adjunctive probiotics (3.7 mm Hg vs. 2.1 mm Hg, P = 0.061) or adjunctive antibiotics (3.4 mm Hg) than with propranolol alone. Both adjunctive therapies were associated with greater decreases in TNF-α levels (in both peripheral and hepatic venous blood) that resulted from propranolol-only treatment. No clinically relevant between-group differences were observed in the type or frequency of adverse events.


Adjunctive probiotic (VSL#3) improved the response rate to propranolol therapy and was safe and well tolerated in patients with cirrhosis. Adjunctive probiotic therapy merits further study for reduction in portal pressure.

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