Liver disease in the era of COVID-19: Is the worst yet to come?

World J Gastroenterol. 2021 Sep 28;27(36):6039-6052. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v27.i36.6039.


The global social, economic and political crises related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) presumably had more indirect than direct negative impacts on health systems. Drastic lifestyle changes, social isolation and distancing, and individual and global financial crises resulted in robust populations forfeiting healthy habits and seeking comfort in alcoholic beverages, drugs and unhealthy diets. The inevitable consequences are increases in the incidence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, viral hepatitis, acute alcoholic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis decompensation and ultimately liver-related mortality. The inaccessibility of regular clinical and sonographic monitoring systems has caused difficulties in the treatment of patients with chronic liver disease (CLD) and has prevented prompt hepatocellular carcinoma detection and treatment. A dramatic reduction in the number of liver donors and the transformation of numerous transplantation centers into COVID-19 units drastically decreased the rate of orthotopic liver transplantation. The indirect, unavoidable effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the following years have yet to be determined. Substantial efforts in the management of patients with liver disease in order to overcome the inevitable COVID-19-related morbidity and mortality that will follow have yet to be initiated. Several questions regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on liver disease remain. The most important question for general CLD patients is: How will the modification of clinical practice during this pandemic affect the outcomes of CLD patients? This article reviews the influence of COVID-19 on patients with liver disease during the pandemic, with particular emphasis on the disease course associated with pandemic resolution.

Keywords: COVID-19; Chronic liver disease; Impact; Liver-related mortality; Management; Pandemic.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular*
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2