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Chronic Liver Disease on the rise in Queenslanders

13 June 2019

The results of a nine-year study by QIMR Berghofer and Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) show chronic liver disease is on the rise in Queensland, with a significant increase in patients admitted to hospitals, both public and private, for treatment.

The new study revealed a 62 per cent increase in the number of patients being treated for cirrhosis at Queensland hospitals, from 2,701 admissions in 2008 to 4,367 in 2016, with the state’s most disadvantaged more at risk representing the greatest rise in admissions across Queensland hospitals.

PAH Hepatologist and Lead Researcher, Professor Elizabeth Powell, said the increases shown through the admission data from 2008-2016 highlights a need for further public awareness within the community.

“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.”

“About one in four of all cirrhosis admissions to Queensland hospitals were from patients residing in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas of the state, compared to one in five for all hospital admissions in Australia,” Professor Powell said.

“The number of Indigenous hospital patients with cirrhosis increased from 201 in 2008 to 341 in 2016.

“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,” she said.

PAH patient, Steve, has been successfully managing his cirrhosis since being diagnosed in 2010.

“I was lucky my doctors picked up my cirrhosis during a liver screening when I was being treated for Hepatitis C.

“As a result of the condition, I had formed a tumour on my liver which was thankfully caught early, and I was able to make a full recovery,” he said.

Steve is urging others to consult with their GP about the risk of cirrhosis and ensure they have the test to stay healthy.

“Many people I know have cirrhosis or have now died from liver cancer.

“It’s a silent killer so it’s important to have a good GP and to get tested for liver disease. It’s better to find out you’ve dodged a bullet or get treated early than to find out too late,” he said.

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.

“This also highlights the need for better targeted public health messages about alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight and the need for Hepatitis immunisations.”

Last updated 14 June 2019
Last reviewed 13 June 2019

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