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Keywords:

  • alcohol;
  • liver disease;
  • diagnosis;
  • morbidity;
  • mortality

Abstract

Background:  Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is an important contributor to the total burden of alcohol-related harm; however, the morbidity of different types of ALD in Australia has not been described. The aim of this study was to investigate recent trends in hospital admission rates among alcoholic liver cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatic failure and alcoholic hepatitis in Australia, as well as the mortality of ALD.

Method:  This is a population-based cohort study including the total 15+ years Australian population. Data were obtained from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Main outcome measures: (i) trend of standardized mortality rates and trend of standardized hospital admission rates for males and females for 1993/1994–2004/2005 (fiscal year), (ii) relative risk of alcoholic liver cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatic failure and alcoholic hepatitis hospital admissions for 1999/2000–2004/2005.

Results:  The mortality rate of ALD decreased significantly. Significant increases in hospital admissions for alcoholic hepatic failure among older adults and alcoholic hepatitis among younger age groups were observed. There is a significant 10-fold increase in the risk of hospital admissions of alcoholic cirrhosis in 2002/2003 for the 20–29 years population.

Conclusion:  Reductions in overall ALD mortality observed are likely the result of advances in disease management. Significant increase in hospital admissions suggests an increase in the prevalence of ALD among the Australian population. Dramatic increases in hospital admissions for alcoholic cirrhosis in 2002/2003 for the 20–29 years population may have been due to an increase in screening of alcohol-related harms in primary care settings.