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High rates of disability and health care use for older americans with cirrhosis
Date:1/10/2012

New research shows that older Americans with cirrhosis have significantly worse health status and greater functional disability compared to those without this potentially deadly disease. In fact, findings now published in Hepatology, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, show that elderly patients with cirrhosis require twice the amount of informal caregiving and contribute added strain on the health care system. Given the increase in obesity and aging of those with hepatitis C (HCV), researchers expect the prevalence of cirrhosis to climb in this frail population.

Cirrhosis is a chronic condition that causes the liver to slowly deteriorate, with scar tissue replacing healthy tissue and impairing liver function. Studies have shown that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)ranging in severity from fatty liver to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) to cirrhosishas become the most prevalent cause of chronic liver disease worldwide, affecting up to 30% of the general population and found in 75% of obese individuals. The Action Plan for Liver Disease Research estimates that 5.5 million Americans have chronic liver disease or cirrhosis, which is one of the most expensive digestive diseases costing $1.6 billion annually in healthcare costs and lost work days.

"With the obesity epidemic contributing to a rise in NAFLD cases along with the aging HCV patient population, cirrhosis among the elderly is expected to become increasingly prevalent," said Dr. Mina Rakoski with the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor. "Therefore, understanding the health and economic burden on older cirrhotic patients, their caregivers, and the health system is extremely important." In the present study Dr. Rakoski and colleagues identified 317 patients with cirrhosis and 951 age-matched individuals without the disease from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and Medicare claims files. Researchers asse
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Contact: Dawn Peters
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Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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