Hospitalizations for severe alcohol-related hepatitis increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among women aged younger than 40 years, according to study findings published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.

Researchers analyzed electronic medical records from the Community Medical Center system, which contains data from 3 hospitals in Fresno, California. Trends in the quarterly rate of hospitalizations for alcohol-related hepatitis and alcoholic hepatic failure between 2019 and 2020 were compared.

A total of 420 patients were identified. In 2019 and 2020, the patient populations had a mean age of 48.4±1.9 and 47.4±1.7 years; 81.7% and 72.7% were men; and 45% and 51.8% were non-Hispanic, respectively.


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Overall, the incidence of alcohol-related hepatitis increased by 51% (P =.003) during the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching significance (69% increase) after the stay-at-home orders were implemented (P =.001).

Compared with 2019, in 2020 there was a 50% increase in the number of patients who were aged younger than 40 years (P =.0028) and a 125% increase in the number of women (P =.06).

No significant differences in comorbidities among patient populations were observed.

During hospitalization, fewer patients in 2020 were evaluated by endoscopy (P =.003), and there was a 94% increase in readmissions within 3 months during the COVID-19 pandemic (P =.028).

This study was limited by its small sample size and limited geographic reach.

“We observed drastic increases in severe alcohol-related hepatitis requiring inpatient management, especially in patients under the age of 40 and in women, as well as an increase in readmission rates during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the study authors noted. “These increases in the number and severity of cases of alcohol-related hepatitis corresponded to an increased burden of alcohol misuse in our communities that experienced unparalleled levels of social disruption. […] The long-term impacts of the increase in alcohol use on our national health system will be seen in years to come unless urgent public health interventions are implemented to combat the rising misuse of alcohol and its consequences.”

Reference

Sohal A, Khalid S, Green V, Gulati A, Roytman M. The pandemic within the pandemic unprecedented rise in alcohol-related hepatitis during the COVID-19 pandemic. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2022;56(3):e171-e175. doi:10.1097/MCG.0000000000001627