Tuesday September 7, 2010
Although many advances have been made in the detection and treatment of chronic liver disease in the past 40 years, the prognosis for patients with alcohol liver disease has not improved significantly. While advances have improved the outcomes for non-alcoholic liver disease patients, outcomes for alcohol liver disease patients remain bleak.
Researchers believe the prognosis for alcohol-related liver patients would improve if as much effort was placed in treating their alcohol dependence as is spent treating their liver disease.
Advances in treatment for hepatitis C and autoimmune hepatitis have improved outcomes for those patients in the past 40 years, and new diagnostic tools have increased early detection of the development of cirrhosis. These changes have been effective in improving outcomes for non-alcohol-related chronic liver disease patients.
Prognosis Unchanged for Alcohol Liver Patients
A new Swedish study of 36,462 patients hospitalized with alcoholic liver diseases and 95,842 patients hospitalized with non-alcoholic liver diseases found that the prognosis for alcohol-liver disease patients has remained basically unchanged.
The main difference is the alcohol dependence of the alcohol liver disease patients, said lead researcher Knut Stokkeland, of the Visby Hospital in Sweden. Since almost all alcohol liver disease patients are also alcohol dependent or alcoholics it affects their prognosis.
"Alcohol dependence increases the risks of social problems, being a smoker, and severe psychiatric diseases," Stokkeland said in a news release. "It also inhibits staying sober, which may stop disease progression."
Need Treatment for Alcoholism
The researchers believe that patients with alcohol liver disease should receive more attention, specifically they should be offered treatment for their alcohol problem as well as for their liver disease. The problem, they said, is that the lack of coordination between the hepatology and gastroenterology specialists who treat the liver and those who treat substance abuse.
Because drinking alcohol doubles the risk of developing a serious liver problem, any efforts to reduce alcohol consumption would improve the outcomes for those with alcohol-related liver disease, the researchers concluded.
In short, if you or someone you know develops liver disease, the best thing they can do to improve their chances of surviving is to stop drinking immediately.