Prevalence of chronic hepatic disease in Portugal. Apropos of a review carried out in a hepatology unit.

A I Valente, A Almeida, A Gouveia, F Serejo, F Ramalho, A Baptista, A Saragoça, M C Moura


The chronic elevation of Aminotransferases is one of the most frequent indications for percutaneous Liver Biopsy (LB). From a retrospective study of LB performed in the Hepatology liver Unit of Santa Maria Hospital, between 1989 and 1993, we correlated the histologic diagnosis with the etiology of liver disease, sex, age and the Aspartate aminotransferase/Alanine aminotransferase (AST/ALT) and Gama-Glutamyl transpeptidase (gamma GT) index in patients with chronic liver test abnormalities. 790 LB were reviewed retrospectively, of patients aged between 11 and 78 years, 68% males and 32% females. The most common etiology was Hepatitis C (34.6%), followed by Hepatitis B (20.1%) and alcohol (15.8%). Autoimmune diseases (Primary Biliary Cirrhosis and Autoimmune Hepatitis) were present in 3% of cases, and metabolic liver diseases in 1.4%. The distribution by sex revealed a predominance of Hepatitis C in both, alcoholic liver disease being more frequent in males (21.5% vs 3.9%). The main histological diagnoses were Chronic Active Hepatitis (27.2%), Liver Cirrhosis (19.5%), Steatohepatitis (9.5%) and minor lesions (24.6%). In alcoholic liver disease, 47.2% had Liver Cirrhosis and 16% Steatohepatitis; in Hepatitis B, Liver Cirrhosis was found in 12.6% and in Hepatitis C in 11.4%. Liver Cirrhosis had a prevalence between the 4th and 6th decade of life (82%) with a peak incidence in the 5th, and appeared earlier in Hepatitis B and later in Hepatitis C. The prevalence between sexes was similar. The main etiology of Liver Cirrhosis was alcohol (38.3%). The gamma GT index was greater in alcoholic liver disease (average 4.1) and was nearly twice in Hepatitis C than in Hepatitis B (1.7 vs 0.8). CONCLUSIONS: 1) Hepatitis C in our Hepatology Unit was the main indication for Liver biopsy. 2) The prevalence of alcoholic liver disease is greater in males, being the main etiology of Liver Cirrhosis. 3) The progression to Liver Cirrhosis seems to be similar in Hepatitis B and C. 4) The progression to Liver Cirrhosis is similar in both sexes, being dominant in the 5th decade of life. 5) The progression to Liver Cirrhosis is earlier in Hepatitis B than in Hepatitis C. 6) A gamma GT index elevation, without alcohol abuse, is suggestive of Hepatitis C. 7) Autoimmune and metabolic liver diseases seem to be rare in Portugal.

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