Alcohol treatment discussions and clinical outcomes among patients with alcohol-related cirrhosis

BMC Gastroenterol. 2023 Feb 2;23(1):29. doi: 10.1186/s12876-023-02656-z.


Background: Alcohol cessation is the cornerstone of treatment for alcohol-related cirrhosis. This study evaluated associations between medical conversations about alcohol use disorder (AUD) treatment, AUD treatment engagement, and mortality.

Methods: This retrospective cohort study included all patients with ICD-10 diagnosis codes for cirrhosis and AUD who were engaged in hepatology care in a single healthcare system in 2015. Baseline demographic, medical, liver disease, and AUD treatment data were assessed. AUD treatment discussions and initiation, alcohol cessation, and subsequent 5-year mortality were collected. Multivariable models were used to assess the factors associated with subsequent AUD treatment and 5-year mortality.

Results: Among 436 patients with cirrhosis due to alcohol, 65 patients (15%) received AUD treatment at baseline, including 48 (11%) receiving behavioral therapy alone, 11 (2%) receiving pharmacotherapy alone, and 6 (1%) receiving both. Over the first year after a baseline hepatology visit, 37 patients engaged in AUD treatment, 51 were retained in treatment, and 14 stopped treatment. Thirty percent of patients had hepatology-documented AUD treatment recommendations and 26% had primary care-documented AUD treatment recommendations. Most hepatology (86%) and primary care (88%) recommendations discussed behavioral therapy alone. Among patients with ongoing alcohol use at baseline, AUD treatment one year later was significantly, independently associated with AUD treatment discussions with hepatology (adjusted odds ratio (aOR): 3.23, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.58, 6.89) or primary care (aOR: 2.95; 95% CI: 1.44, 6.15) and negatively associated with having Medicaid insurance (aOR: 0.43, 95% CI: 0.18, 0.93). When treatment was discussed in both settings, high rates of treatment ensued (aOR: 10.72, 95% CI: 3.89, 33.52). Over a 5-year follow-up period, 152 (35%) patients died. Ongoing alcohol use, age, hepatic decompensation, and hepatocellular carcinoma were significantly associated with mortality in the final survival model.

Conclusion: AUD treatment discussions were documented in less than half of hepatology and primary care encounters in patients with alcohol-related cirrhosis, though such discussions were significantly associated with receipt of AUD treatment.

Keywords: Acamprosate; Addiction; Alcoholism; Behavioral; Communication.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism* / complications
  • Alcoholism* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Alcoholic / therapy
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States