Background and aim: The incidence of biliary atresia (BA) varies among different countries. It is supposed to be higher in Asian countries than in Western countries; however, the incidence of BA in Taiwan has not been well investigated. The aim of this study was to analyze the epidemiological characteristics and the incidence of BA in Taiwan.
Methods: National Health Insurance (NHI) was implemented in Taiwan in 1995, and covers most of the population (>99%). We use the NHI database to investigate the epidemiological features of BA and compare Taiwan's annual BA incidence with that of other countries.
Results: We identified 327 new BA cases during the period from 1996 to 2003. The overall incidence of BA was 1.46 cases per 10 000 live births (0.89-1.90 per 10 000). The estimation was 1.32-1.65 per 10 000 after adjustment for the misdiagnosis rate. The peak incidence occurred in 2002 (1.90 per 10 000), accompanying Taiwan's dengue fever epidemic in 2002. The 5-year overall survival rate during 1999-2003 was higher than that during 1996-1998 (74.8% vs 61.1%, P = 0.014).
Conclusion: Taiwan has the second-highest incidence of BA reported in world literature. Viral infection outbreaks remain a potential candidate as a cause of BA. The management of BA has been improving, with a better 5-year overall survival rate.