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Minerva Medica 2019 February;110(1):35-51

DOI: 10.23736/S0026-4806.18.05858-5


language: English

Liver diseases in the elderly

Marilena DURAZZO 1 , Elena PONZO 2, Silvia BONETTO 1, Sharmila FAGOONEE 3, Rinaldo PELLICANO 2

1 Unit of Medicine 3, Department of Medical Sciences, Città della Salute e della Scienza, Molinette Hospital, University of Turin, Turin, Italy; 2 Unit of Gastroenterology, Molinette-SGAS Hospital, Turin, Italy; 3 Institute for Biostructure and Bioimaging, Molecular Biotechnology Center, National Research Council, Turin, Italy

Due to the progressive increase in life expectancy, the number of elderly people in the world is growing rapidly. Although there are no liver diseases specific of older age, the ageing liver shows some anatomical and physiological changes that can affect the frequency and the clinical behavior of most hepatopathies. In particular, these changes tend to cause an increased vulnerability to acute liver injury and an increased susceptibility to liver fibrosis, accounting for the predisposition to a generally more severe course of liver diseases compared to younger patients. Furthermore, advanced age is also associated with immune system alterations, influencing the manifestation of those hepatopathies that are mediated by host immune response, like viral hepatitis, autoimmune hepatitis but also hepatocellular carcinoma. Despite these changes, total liver function and laboratory values tend to be well maintained in healthy elderly, so that every enzymatic alteration in a geriatric patient should be investigated with the same attention as in a younger one. A proper and early diagnosis is of great importance both considering the age-related more aggressive course of hepatopathies and that age itself does not seem to be a limit for most treatment options, even if specific data are often lacking. This paper focuses on the peculiarities of main liver diseases in geriatrics, with respect to epidemiology, clinical presentation, diagnosis and management, which can be more challenging in advanced age because of the frequent comorbidities and polytherapies.

KEY WORDS: Aged - Liver diseases - Hepatitis - Liver cirrhosis

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