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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 22 (2008), Issue 4, Pages 381-387
Original Article

The Burden of Hepatitis C Virus Infection Is Growing: A Canadian Population-Based Study of Hospitalizations from 1994 to 2004

Robert P Myers,1 MingFu Liu,2 and Abdel Aziz M Shaheen1

1Liver Unit, Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, University of Calgary, Canada
2Health System Analysis Unit, Quality, Safety and Health Information, Calgary Health Region, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Received 11 October 2007; Accepted 19 November 2007

Copyright © 2008 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: Nearly 1% of Canadians are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Simulation analyses have suggested that HCV will place an increasing burden on the health care system as the infected population ages, but supportive clinical data are limited.

OBJECTIVES: To study temporal trends in HCV-related hospitalizations and predictors of increased health care utilization from a Canadian population-based perspective.

METHODS: An administrative hospitalization database from the Calgary Health Region was used to identify patients who were admitted for HCV between 1994 and 2004. The primary outcomes were liver-related HCV hospitalizations, length of stay, hospital costs and in-hospital mortality. Average annual growth rates in outcomes were calculated and subgroup analyses were conducted according to age, sex and HIV/HCV coinfection status.

RESULTS: Between 1994 and 2004, there were 4002 HCV-related hospitalizations; 22% were liver-related. Liver-related hospitalizations, lengths of stay and in-hospital mortality increased approximately fourfold or an average of 15% to 18% annually (P<0.0005). Patients aged 40 to 59 years and HIV/HCV coinfected patients experienced the largest average annual growth rates (19% to 27% and 30% to 40%, respectively; P<0.0005), reflecting the accelerated natural history of HCV in these subgroups. Hospital costs for liver-related HCV hospitalizations increased by an average of 41% annually (P=0.001) between 2000 and 2004. The average annual increase in liver-related hospitalizations remained significant in a sensitivity analysis, even when 75% of HCV cases were under-reported in 1994.

CONCLUSIONS: The present studies’ findings confirm the growing burden of HCV on the Canadian health care system. Strategies to prevent HCV infection and maximize the dissemination and most effective use of potentially curative antiviral therapies are necessary to reduce these trends.