Excess mortality rates in a cohort of patients infected with the hepatitis C virus: a prospective study

Keith R Neal, Sheena Ramsay, Brian J Thomson, William L Irving
Gut 2007, 56 (8): 1098-104

OBJECTIVE: We analysed the Trent Hepatitis C cohort to determine standardised mortality ratios in patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), and to identify risk factors and associations with all-cause and liver-related mortality.

DESIGN: Cohort study.

SETTING: Patients with HCV infection attending secondary care within the Trent region of England.

PATIENTS: 2285 patients with hepatitis C, followed for 1 year or more.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The death rate in the cohort was compared to that seen in an age- and sex-matched English population. We performed Cox regression analyses to identify factors predictive of all-cause mortality and deaths from liver disease.

RESULTS: Standardised mortality ratios in the cohort were three times higher than those expected in the general population of England. The excess deaths were due to liver-related causes and those associated with a drug-using lifestyle. Significant independent predictors of all-cause mortality were age, sex, treatment (protective) and liver biopsy fibrosis. Age, treatment, liver biopsy fibrosis and mean alcohol consumption were predictors of liver-related mortality. HCV was mentioned on 23% of death certificates overall, and on 52% of those of patients dying from a liver-related cause.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings demonstrate that the death rate in patients infected with hepatitis C is three times higher than expected. Severity of disease is associated with a worse prognosis, whilst treatment improves outcome, particularly in those who respond. Use of death certificate data on HCV infection for planning purposes will result in considerable under-estimation of the HCV-related disease burden.

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