14 March 2014
Patients with cirrhosis of the liver who are at risk of developing liver cancer can be effectively monitored by experienced nurses, freeing up medical staff in busy liver clinics challenged by tight health budgets, medical workforce shortages and increasing patient demand.
Dr Wendy Cheng and nurse practitioner Saroja Nazareth initiated such a program at the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Royal Perth Hospital in 2010 and have been following patients for up to 50 months.
Presenting their experience to the 2014 meeting of the Asian Pacific Association for the Study of Liver (APASL) in Brisbane this week, they said the service was proving successful and patients were satisfied with the level of care.
“We have experienced nurses working effectively within strict clinical protocols, following up patients regularly and ensuring they have their blood tests and ultrasounds. Doctors only see the patients if there is a problem,” Dr Cheng said.
The close follow-up ensures that liver cancers are picked up early when curative treatment is possible.
Presenting a data set of 41 patients, they said 30 of these patients with cirrhosis achieved a sustained viral response after treatment for hepatitis C. Two patients who had abnormal ultrasounds requiring further investigation were subsequently found to have small liver cancers and were treated successfully.
They said support and follow-up via the nurses can be particularly important for patients enduring lengthy and difficult treatment for viral hepatitis.
A major report on the social and economic costs of liver disease in 2013 recommended more nurse-led programs to maintain the health of people at-risk of liver complications and reduce health costs.
The experiences of other initiatives including a nurse-led outreach program for the assessment and treatment of hepatitis C in NSW prisoners and a shared care program in South Australia will also be discussed at APASL 2014.
To arrange an interview or for further information please contact:
Maria Padua on 0419 200 935 or Mardi Chapman on 0466 805 735.