Hospitalisation for cirrhosis in Australia: Disparities in presentation and outcomes for Indigenous Australians

Patricia C. Valery, Paul J. Clark, Gregory Pratt, Christina M. Bernardes, Gunter Hartel, Maree Toombs, Katharine M. Irvine, Elizabeth E. Powell

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Background: Indigenous Australians experience greater health disadvantage and have a higher prevalence of many chronic health conditions. Liver diseases leading to cirrhosis are among the most common contributor to the mortality gap between Indigenous and other Australian adults. However, no comparative data exist assessing differences in presentation and patient outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians hospitalised with cirrhosis. Methods: Using data from the Hospital Admitted Patient Data Collection and the Death Registry, this retrospective, population-based, cohort study including all people hospitalised for cirrhosis in the state of Queensland during 2008-2017 examined rate of readmission (Poisson regression), cumulative survival (Kaplan-Meier), and assessed the differences in survival (Multivariable Cox regression) by Indigenous status. Predictor variables included demographic, health service characteristics and clinical data. Results: We studied 779 Indigenous and 10,642 non-Indigenous patients with cirrhosis. A higher proportion of Indigenous patients were younger than 50 years (346 [44%] vs. 2063 [19%] non-Indigenous patients), lived in most disadvantaged areas (395 [51%) vs. 2728 [26%]), had alcohol-related cirrhosis (547 [70%] vs. 5041 [47%]), had ascites (314 [40%] vs. 3555 [33%), and presented to hospital via the Emergency Department (510 [68%] vs. 4790 [47%]). Indigenous patients had 3.04 times the rate of non-cirrhosis readmissions (95%CI 2.98-3.10), 1.35 times the rate of cirrhosis-related readmissions (95%CI 1.29-1.41), and lower overall survival (17% vs. 27%; unadjusted hazard ratio (HR) = 1.16 95%CI 1.06-1.27), compared to non-Indigenous patients. Most of the survival deficit was explained by Emergency Department presentation (adj-HR = 1.03 95%CI 0.93-1.13), and alcohol-related aetiology (adj-HR = 1.08 95%CI 0.99-1.19). The remaining survival deficit was influenced by the other clinico-demographic and health service factors (final adj-HR = 1.08 95%CI 0.96-1.20). Conclusions: There was evidence of differential presentation, higher rates of readmissions, and poorer survival for Indigenous Australians with cirrhosis, compared to other Australians. The increased prevalence of Emergency Department presentation among Indigenous patients suggests missed opportunities for early intervention to prevent progressive cirrhosis complications and hospital readmissions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number27
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


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