Hepatitis C Virus-related chronic liver disease in elderly patients: an Italian cross-sectional study.J Viral Hepat. 2010 May; 17(5):360-6.JV
Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has been poorly investigated in the elderly. The aim of this study was to identify the age-specific characteristics of chronic hepatitis C by comparing patients > or =65 years with those <65 years. A cross-sectional study was performed on data collected from consecutive outpatients referred for the first time to two tertiary outpatient clinics for liver diseases located in Bologna (Northern Italy) and Paola, Cosenza (Southern Italy) over a two-year period. A total of 560 anti-HCV and HCV-RNA positive patients were enrolled, of whom 174 (31%) were 65 years or older. The proportion of older patients was significantly higher in the Southern Italy centre, accounting for more than 40%. Comparison of younger and older groups showed that 51% patients > or =65 years had advanced liver disease (liver cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma) compared with 26% younger patients (P < 0.0001). About half of the patients > or =65 years were not aware of their anti-HCV positive status, even if they tended to be more symptomatic than the younger group. By multivariate analysis, age > or = 65 years, alcohol consumption and diabetes were independently associated with advanced liver disease. Overall, 34 out of 174 patients (20%) > or =65 years had received antiviral treatment compared with 122 out of 386 (32%) younger patients (P = 0.003). Our results further emphasize the notion that chronic hepatitis C is becoming a disease of the elderly and that elderly patients with chronic HCV infection often have severe and underestimated disease.