The impetus for the study was simple: Liver disease is underdiagnosed, Kim tells Health Leaders Media. "Liver disease is an important cause of morbidity and mortality in the U.S.— more than we have recognized in the past— and as physicians, we need to be aware of that."
Many people in the U.S. have hepatitis C, and as they grow older, they experience complications. Moreover, related to the rising obesity rates, a large number of individuals have fatty liver disease. Some go on to develop end-stage liver disease, cirrhosis, or liver cancer, he explained.
Analyzing the mortality data using the more comprehensive criteria, he and his colleagues were able to discover the true impact of liver disease on the population.
The implications for clinicians are clear, says Kim: Obese people and those with hepatitis C need to be watched especially closely for liver disease as part of their overall medical management program. "Many liver disease patients are asymptomatic until they have really advanced disease."