Study Suggests Hepatitis C Is a Cardiovascular Risk Factor

The authors of a study that explored an association between heart disease and hepatitis C say chronic infection of the virus should be considered a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease.

The authors of a study that explored an association between heart disease and hepatitis C say chronic infection of the virus should be considered a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease, according to results presented at the recent 2015 International Liver Congress in Vienna, Austria.

The study conducted by Firew Wubiee, MD, and colleagues at Howard University in Washington DC analysed cardiovascular events using weighted data from the 2011 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, the largest public all-payer inpatient health care database in the US. The purpose was to explore the association of hepatitis C viral infection and cardiovascular events and the impact of hepatitis C on the cost and length of stay in patients who had cardiovascular disorders, according to an EASL news release.

Hepatitis C is one of the most prevalent global diseases with up to 150 million people worldwide believed to be infected with the virus. According to the World Health Organization there are 350,000 to 500,000 people who die each year from the disease.

Doctors know that chronic infection of hepatitis C, which is a blood borne virus, can severely damage the liver and in some cases cause liver cancer or lead to the need for a liver transplant. The disease is also associated with insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, and systemic inflammation, which can predispose a patient to atherosclerosis that may increase cardiovascular events, states the study abstract.

Among the data reviewed by researchers, 201,950 patients had an acute myocardial infarction, 1,434,012 patients had coronary artery disease, 944,870 had congestive heart failure and 53,623 had a cerebrovascular accident noted in their primary discharge diagnosis for the year 2011. Researchers compared cardiovascular outcomes data to patients’ hepatitis C exposure status.

In the study, inpatient prevalence of diagnosed hepatitis C infection was 1.9%. For these patients, the adjusted odds ratio for acute myocardial infarction was 2.29 (CI: 2.22−2.36); for coronary artery disease: 1.88 (CI: 1.83−1.93); for cerebrovascular accident: 1.98 (CI: 1.93−2.04) and for congestive heart failure: 1.08 (CI: 1.06—1.10), according to the abstract.

The authors noted that patients in the study who have hepatitis C tended to be younger, poorer, male, diabetic, minorities, who smoked and consumed alcohol. They were also more likely to die in the hospital compared to patients who did not have the virus.

According to the study abstract, “The inpatient treatment cost and length of hospital stay of HCV patients with cardiovascular morbidity were consistently and significantly higher than non-HCV patients.”

The study authors concluded that chronic hepatitis C infection should be considered a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular diseases. Previous studies from various institutions that examined links between the virus and risk factors for heart disease have had mixed results.