Hepatic encephalopathy, a challenging complication of advanced liver disease, occurs in approximately 30-45% of patients with cirrhosis and 10-50% of patients with transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt, while minimal hepatic encephalopathy affects approximately 20-60% of patients with liver disease. Although the total direct and indirect costs of hepatic encephalopathy have not been formally quantified, data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project suggest that hepatic encephalopathy-related hospitalizations are associated with substantial costs. In 2003, there were over 40 000 patients hospitalized in the United States for a primary diagnosis of hepatic encephalopathy, resulting in total charges of approximately $932 million. Furthermore, trends over the past 10 years suggest that the burden of hepatic encephalopathy is increasing, as indicated by increases in hospital admissions and higher charges per stay. Because of inconsistencies in coding for hepatic encephalopathy, the prevalence and cost data from this data source are believed to significantly underestimate the true burden of hepatic encephalopathy. In addition, expenditures for physician fees and out-patient care, as well as indirect costs attributable to lost work days and decreased productivity, have not been quantified. Thus, there is need for future studies to more accurately define the burden of hepatic encephalopathy, including minimal hepatic encephalopathy.
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