Queensland liver disease rates rocket

Alcohol misuse and disadvantage major causes of Queensland's liver disease crisis.


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MORE RESOURCES NEEDED: Many more Queenslanders with chronic liver disease are being admitted to Queensland hospitals.

MORE RESOURCES NEEDED: Many more Queenslanders with chronic liver disease are being admitted to Queensland hospitals.

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Many patients with serious cirrhosis live less than two years without a liver transplant.

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RECORD number of Queenslanders are being admitted to hospital for treatment of chronic liver disease with the highest rates among men aged 55 to 59 and Indigenous Australians.

In nine years from 2008-2016 there was a 62 per cent increase in the number of patients being treated for cirrhosis at all Queensland hospitals both public and private (2,701 to 4,367).

A study by QIMR Berghofer and Princess Alexandra Hospital researchers also found alcohol misuse was a contributing factor in 55 per cent of cirrhosis admissions, and socioeconomic disadvantage was a contributing factor in 27 per cent of cases.

Lead researcher and hepatologist, Professor Elizabeth Powell, said the percentage increase in the number of cases varied by socioeconomic disadvantage too, with a three per cent increase in admissions among those classified as most affluent, while there was a 9.5 per cent increase among the state's lowest earners and unemployed.

"It's a serious disease and patient care in advanced cirrhosis is challenging. Many patients are on multiple medications, have dietary restrictions, and may require repeated hospital admissions each year.

"Many patients admitted to hospital with serious complications of cirrhosis such as severe jaundice and confusion, may not live for more than two years without a liver transplant.

"There are many triggers for the disease, including excessive alcohol use, hepatitis, or if people have fatty liver disease, which is usually a consequence of obesity."

Senior author, Associate Professor Patricia Valery, from QIMR Berghofer's Cancer and Chronic Disease research group said the study findings had implications for Queenslanders and health care providers.

"We need to better plan for the increasing number of cases we will see in the future," she said.

"We will need more hospital beds and health services for patients with chronic liver disease. Importantly, we need more resources for front line health providers such as GPs, so they can identify patients early and avoid progression to advanced cirrhosis.

"The disproportionate impact of cirrhosis on disadvantaged Australians and Indigenous Australians also highlights the need for better targeted public health messages about alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight and the need for hepatitis immunisations."

The study was published in the journal EClinical Medicine.

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