Chronic liver disease in an ageing population

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The prevalence of chronic liver disease is increasing in the elderly population. With a mostly asymptomatic or non-specific presentation, these diseases may easily go undiagnosed. Abnormal liver function tests of unknown cause are a common reason for referral to secondary care. Investigating the older person with abnormal liver function is important; even with mild abnormalities, the same vigilance should be applied to an older person as in a young person. Liver biopsy is safe but often overlooked in this age group and may provide useful information to diagnose, direct therapy and prognosticate. Treatment options are similar for all age groups, with a few subtle differences, although further evidence is frequently required for the older population. Morbidity and age-adjusted mortality are often more severe in older people, and therefore early diagnosis and intervention is important. Presented here are the most common chronic liver diseases that geriatricians are likely to encounter in clinical practise. Their epidemiology, clinical features, investigation, treatment and mortality are described with a particular focus on the elderly population.

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