OBJECTIVE: The use of nonselective beta blockers in cirrhotic patients experiencing complications is controversial. We aimed to investigate the association between propranolol treatment and outcomes for cirrhotic patients with hepatic encephalopathy. METHODS: Using data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database, we identified 4754 cirrhotic patients newly diagnosed with hepatic encephalopathy between 2001 and 2010. Among them, 519 patients received propranolol treatment and the other 519 patients without exposure to propranolol were enrolled into our study, both of which were matched by sex, age, and propensity score. The Kaplan-Meier method and time-dependent-modified Cox proportional hazards models were employed for survival and multivariate-stratified analyses. RESULTS: The median overall survival (OS) was significantly longer in the propranolol-treated cohort than in the untreated cohort (3.46 versus 1.88 years, P < 0.001). A dose-dependent increase in survival was observed (median OS: 4.49, 3.29, and 2.46 years in patients treated with propranolol more than 30 , 20-30 , and less than 20 mg/day, respectively [P < 0.001, P = 0.001, and P = 0.079 versus the untreated group]). In addition to reduce the risk of mortality (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.58; P < 0.001), propranolol also diminished the risk of sepsis-related death (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.31; P = 0.006) according to the multivariate analysis. However, the risk of circulatory or hepatic failure was nonsignificantly altered by propranolol treatment. CONCLUSION: Low dose of propranolol treatment was associated with a better OS in cirrhotic patients with hepatic encephalopathy and its effects were dose dependent.
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