The prognosis and outcome of alcoholic liver disease

Alcohol Alcohol Suppl. 1994;2:335-43.


Alcoholic liver disease evolves from fatty change through alcoholic hepatitis to alcoholic cirrhosis. Its development is associated with an excess mortality both in relation to the presence of liver disease and to other complications of alcohol abuse. In the majority of patients fatty liver is a benign lesion which will reverse completely following abstinence from alcohol. Continued drinking is associated with the eventual development of cirrhosis in approximately 20% of individuals. Survival rates of 70% are reported both at 2 years and at 10 years. Alcoholic hepatitis is a precirrhotic lesion; progression to cirrhosis is observed more commonly in women, in individuals with severe disease and in those who continue to drink. Thirty-day mortality rates of less than 20% are observed in patients with mild to moderate disease but exceed 40% in individuals with severe liver injury. Corticosteroids may improve short term survival in a small subgroup of patients with severe alcoholic hepatitis. Survival rates of 55 to 60% are reported both at 2 years and at 10 years. Survival is significantly reduced in women and in the elderly and is adversely affected by the presence of severe liver injury, evolution to cirrhosis and continued drinking. Two-thirds of patients with alcoholic cirrhosis present with decompensated disease; 15% will develop hepatocellular carcinoma. Survival rates at 5 years vary from zero to 80%; 60 to 90% of individuals die of their liver disease. Survival is adversely affected by the presence of decompensated disease, superimposed alcoholic hepatitis, continued drinking and the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. The advent of hepatic transplantation, which has a 5-year survival rate in excess of 70%, will influence these survival figures.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / etiology
  • Fatty Liver, Alcoholic / etiology
  • Fatty Liver, Alcoholic / mortality
  • Female
  • Hepatitis, Alcoholic / etiology
  • Hepatitis, Alcoholic / mortality
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Alcoholic / etiology
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Alcoholic / mortality
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / etiology*
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / mortality
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / therapy
  • Liver Neoplasms / etiology
  • Liver Transplantation
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Survival Rate