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High rates of disability and health care use found in older Americans with cirrhosis
Date:1/10/2012

Older patients with cirrhosis have significant functional disability, require twice the amount of informal caregiving, and contribute added strain on the health care system, according to U-M research published in Hepatology.

Given the increase in obesity and aging of those with hepatitis C (HCV), researchers expect the prevalence of cirrhosis to climb among older Americans..

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 cirrhosis has become the most prevalent cause of chronic liver disease worldwide, affecting up to 30 percent of the general population and found in 75 percent 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," says Mina Rakoski, M.D., a transplant Hepatology fellow in the University of Michigan Medical School's Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology and lead author of the study.

"Therefore, understanding the health and economic burden on older cirrhotic patients, their caregivers, and the health system is extremely important."

Rakoski and U-M colleagues identified 317 patients with cirrhosis and 951 age-matched individuals without the disease from the Health and Retirement Study and Medicare claims files. Researchers assessed patients' health status and informal caregiving, measured by hours of care and associated cost.


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Contact: Mary F. Masson
mfmasson@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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