Chronic liver disease (CLD) including cirrhosis is the 11th leading cause of death due to disease in the US, killing about 42,000 people annually2. Liver cirrhosis patients with ascites undergo 116,000 hospitalizations each year incurring an estimated $5 billion in annual patient treatment costs3.
There are 3 major causes of liver cirrhosis. Alcoholism accounts for about 25% and is slowly rising. Hepatitis C is another leading cause, but the new antiviral therapies will eventually reduce the number of these patients. Unfortunately, they arrived too late for many hepatitis C patients whose livers have already been destroyed by the virus. The fastest-growing cause of liver cirrhosis is NASH, which comes from fatty-liver disease due to obesity and is now at epidemic proportions. NASH is now the leading cause of liver transplants.
It takes decades for the cirrhosis damage to accumulate and destroy the liver. At first the liver is “compensated” meaning that it’s still cleansing the blood and doing other important jobs. Once it reaches the “decompensation” stage it’s no longer functional, and ascites and other deadly complications start to occur.