BACKGROUND: The prevalence of hepatitis C virus infection increases with advancing age, but elderly hepatitis C virus patients remain an understudied population. AIM: To define the virological, epidemiological and clinical profiles of Italian outpatients aged 65 years and over infected by hepatitis C virus. METHODS: We evaluated 1544 anti-hepatitis C virus positive patients aged ≥65 years referred to 34 Italian outpatient specialty clinics over a two-year period. RESULTS: The study population included 1134 (73%) early elderly (65-74 years) and 410 (27%) late elderly patients (≥75 years). Late elderly subjects were less likely to have their virus genotyped, their viral load assessed or a histological evaluation of liver disease. Overall, 30% of patients had advanced liver disease whose prevalence increased with increasing age. In both age groups, about 40% of patients had normal transaminase levels. Excluding patients with past infection, 51% had not received any antiviral treatment and only 25% were treated after the age of 65. Late elderly patients, women and patients with advanced liver diseases had been less frequently treated. The main reason for exclusion from treatment was age followed by the presence of comorbid conditions. CONCLUSIONS: Elderly hepatitis C virus patients referred to Italian specialty clinics have advanced and underestimated liver disease. Nevertheless, they are progressively understudied in parallel with increasing age.
- hepatitis C