July 25, 2013

Underestimation of Liver-Related Mortality in the United States

Volume 145, Issue 2 , Pages 375-382.e2, August 2013

Presented as an abstract at the Liver Meeting, American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, Boston 2010.

Sumeet K. Asrani, Joseph J. Larson, Barbara Yawn, Terry M. Therneau, W. Ray Kim

Received 12 December 2012; accepted 3 April 2013. published online 11 April 2013.


Background & Aims

According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), chronic liver disease and cirrhosis is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States. However, this single descriptor might not adequately enumerate all deaths from liver disease. The aim of our study was to update data on liver mortality in the United States.


Mortality data were obtained from the Rochester Epidemiology Project (1999−2008) and the National Death Registry (1979−2008). Liver-specific mortality values were calculated. In contrast to the narrow NCHS definition, updated liver-related causes of death included other specific liver diagnoses (eg, hepatorenal syndrome), viral hepatitis, and hepatobiliary cancers.


The Rochester Epidemiology Project database contained information on 261 liver-related deaths, with an age- and sex-adjusted death rate of 27.0/100,000 persons (95% confidence interval: 23.7−30.3). Of these, only 71 deaths (27.2%) would have been captured by the NCHS definition. Of cases for which viral hepatitis or hepatobiliary cancer was the cause of death, 96.9% and 94.3% had liver-related immediate causes of death, respectively. In analysis of data from the National Death registry (2008), use of the updated definition increased liver mortality by >2-fold (from 11.7 to 25.7 deaths/100,000, respectively). Using NCHS definitions, liver-related deaths decreased from 18.9/100,000 in 1979 to 11.7/100,000 in 2008—a reduction of 38%. However, using the updated estimate, liver-related deaths were essentially unchanged from 1979 (25.8/100,000) to 2008 (25.7/100,000). Mortality burden was systematically underestimated among non-whites and persons of Hispanic ethnicity.


Based on analyses of the Rochester Epidemiology Project and National Death databases, liver-related mortality has been underestimated during the past 2 decades in the United States.

Keywords: Hepatocellular Carcinoma, Rate of Death, HCV, HBV, Population

Abbreviations used in this paper: CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CI, confidence interval, HCC, hepatocellular carcinoma, HCV, hepatitis C virus, ICD, International Classification of Diseases, NCHS, National Center for Health Statistics, REP, Rochester Epidemiology


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