(HealthDay News) — Severe liver damage may be four times more common among Americans with hepatitis C than previously believed, according to study findings published in the August issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
Stuart Gordon, MD, director of hepatology at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and colleagues analyzed records from 9,783 hepatitis C patients cared for at four large U.S. health care systems.
According to the researchers, 2,788 patient livers (28.5%) were found to be cirrhotic by at least one method. Biopsy identified cirrhosis in only 7% of patients. Fibrosis-4 scores and diagnosis/procedure codes for cirrhosis and hepatic decompensation identified cirrhosis in 22, 6, and 5% of patients, respectively. Among the 661 patients with biopsy-confirmed cirrhosis, 54% had an International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification code for cirrhosis.
“There are several messages in our paper, and one is that if you’re simply relying on liver biopsy to establish a diagnosis of liver cirrhosis, you’re going to be greatly underestimating the prevalence,” Gordon told HealthDay. “One has to be suspect and try to search for that diagnosis any way you can.”