Newswise — Alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. Although patients with cirrhosis are routinely encouraged to stop drinking in order to reduce their mortality risk, many continue drinking and do not avail themselves of alcohol treatment. To understand more fully the role of alcohol treatment in determining the course of alcohol-related cirrhosis, researchers examined the rates, predictors, and outcomes of alcohol treatment in alcohol-related cirrhosis patients with private insurance. They obtained data from a large insurance database containing information on 66,053 patients with alcohol-related cirrhosis for the years 2009-2016. Nearly one-third of the patients were female, with a mean age of 54.5 years when the diagnosis of cirrhosis was made. 

Despite the fact that nearly three-quarters of patients had insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment, only 10% had a face-to-face mental health or substance abuse visit and only 0.8% received an approved relapse prevention medication within a year of being diagnosed with alcohol-related cirrhosis. Women were less likely to have a face-to-face visit or to receive a relapse prevention medication than men.  At the end of a year, patients who attended alcohol treatment or received an approved medication were 15% less likely to experience a worsening of their cirrhosis than those who did neither. 

The researchers concluded that patients with alcohol-related cirrhosis should be encouraged to receive alcohol treatment to prevent worsening of their condition. Because women were less likely to receive alcohol treatment than men with the disease, urgent attention is needed to reduce gender-specific barriers to alcohol treatment for patients with alcohol-related cirrhosis.

Journal Link: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research