Sad Truth: Job Security in Hepatology

A recent study (ND Parikh et al. Hepatology 2019; 70: 487-95, and associated editorial JA Marrero. 459-61) provide a forecast of increasing liver disease and liver disease severity, driven mainly by fatty liver disease and obesity.

Key findings:

  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) related additions to the liver transplant waitlist expanded from 391 in 2000 to 1605 in 2014.  This corresponded to an overall increase in obesity of 44.1% during that time period.
  • NAFLD-related wait-list additions were predicted by the prevalence of obesity 9 years prior.
  • The authors anticipate that obesity population will increase to over 92 million adults by 2025.
  • The authors project that NAFLD-related wait-list additions will increase to 2104 by 2030, a 55% increase

Because the decrease in complications related to new treatments for Hepatitis C is not expected “until well into the next decade,” the burden of chronic liver disease will continue to rise.

The editorial notes that overall graft survival rates for obese patients with BMI less than 40 do not appear different than those of lean individuals.  Those with BMI >40 had reduced 5-year graft and survival rates.  Also, obese patients have higher morbidities, even in those without reduced survival.

My take: This study identifies a marked increase in end-stage liver disease in the growing population of obese patients.

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