Cirrhosis Survival Spiked

Cirrhosis care improvements may be behind improved survival

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Good news for cirrhosis patients: Survival may be much more common than it once was.

A new study from the University of North Carolina found that improvements in care led to a much higher survival rate for people with cirrhosis and liver failure.

Monica L. Schmidt, MPH, a research associate at the UNC Liver Center and doctoral candidate at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, led this study.

“While the number of cirrhosis hospitalizations increased during the sample period, the rate of hospital deaths fell by 41 percent," Schmidt said in a press release. "In addition, the decline in mortality for cirrhosis patients dropped significantly compared to non-cirrhotic patients. Increased awareness of disease management and earlier diagnosis for cirrhosis-related complications may have led to better survival rates.”

Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver. It can occur from trauma, toxic substances, infections like hepatitis or inherited diseases like cystic fibrosis. Alcohol abuse is another common cause of cirrhosis.

The scar tissue on the liver blocks blood flow. The liver removes toxins from the bloodstream and digests food. Cirrhosis can have a serious effect on nutritional status and body organs.

Complications from cirrhosis can include bleeding, swelling and edema (excess fluid in the body tissues or cavities).

Schmidt and colleagues studied data on more than 780,000 hospitalizations of people with cirrhosis. Their data came from the Health Care Cost and Utilization Project National Inpatient Sample, which includes many US hospitals. The data they analyzed covered the period from 2002 to 2010.

As a basis for comparison, Schmidt and team matched patients with cirrhosis to patients without cirrhosis. They also analyzed deaths of patients with congestive heart failure (CHF).

Hospitalization deaths from cirrhosis decreased by 41 percent over the eight-year period.

Deaths for patients who did not have cirrhosis declined by 19 percent. Deaths from CHF decreased 44 percent for the same period.

Schmidt and colleagues found that cirrhosis patients who had complications like kidney failure were less likely to survive. People who developed severe infections while in the hospital were also less likely to survive.

Medical care for people with cirrhosis advanced significantly over the survey period, Schmidt and team said. Improved care was the most likely reason why more people survived. They noted that early recognition and treatment of infection could improve survival rates even more.

This study was published online April 22 in the journal Gastroenterology.

The National Institutes of Health funded this research. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
April 24, 2015
Last Updated:
April 28, 2015