Alcohol Burden in Hepatology

As an outside observer, I wonder how practitioners in the field of adult hepatology feel about the changing epidemiology of severe liver disease.

Case (article) in point: G Cholankeril et al. Hepatology 2021; 74: 3316-3329. Open Access: Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Liver Transplantation and Alcohol-Associated Liver Disease in the USA

This retrospective study utilized UNOS adult data from 6/1/19 to 3/1/21. This included 9528 in the pre-COVID era and 9259 in the COVID era.

Key findings:

  • There was “a significant reduction in the monthly listing rates for HCV (−21.69%, P < 0.001) and NASH (−13.18%; P < 0.001).” However, there “was a significant increase in ALD [alcohol-associated liver disease] listing (+7.26%; P < 0.001) and LT (10.67%; P < 0.001) during the pandemic.”
  • “In the COVID era, ALD (40.1%) accounted for more listings than those due to HCV (12.4%) and NASH (23.4%) combined. The greatest increase in ALD occurred in young adults (+33%) and patients with severe alcohol-associated hepatitis (+50%).”
  • Interestingly, “patients with ALD had a 50% higher probability rate of LT [liver transplantation] than patients with other liver disease.”

The authors note that patients with alcohol use disorder (AUD) and ALD, during the pandemic, “may no longer have structured non-alcohol-related activities and in-person behavioral counseling…coupled with the delay in routine health care…Few patients with ALD receive recommended care for AUD.”

My take: Due to the cumulative effects of ALD, there is likely to continued (worsening) high rates of liver failure due to ALD. Given the difficulties in managing ALD, aside from managing liver complications, this must be a huge emotional burden for many healthcare providers watching this tragedy play out on a continual basis.

Cumulative incidence rates for LT among patients listed for ALD and non-ALD
in the pre-COVID and COVID eras.

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