HealthDay News — The number of inpatient consults for alcohol-related gastrointestinal (GI) and liver diseases has surged since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study presented at the 2021 Digestive Disease Week, held virtually from May 21 to 23.
Waihong Chung, MD, PhD, from the Warren Alpert Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island, and colleagues assessed the impact of COVID-19 on delayed access to care and the psychosocial distress of the pandemic on inpatients requiring GI consults. The analysis included all inpatient GI consults performed during the lockdown phase (March 23 to May 10, 2020; 558 consults) versus those seen during the reopening phase (June 1 to July 19, 2020; 713 consults).
The researchers found that the volume of consults dropped by 27.7% during the lockdown phase versus the same period in 2019, but the proportion of consults for alcohol-related GI and liver diseases increased by 59.6%. There was no significant change in the proportions of consults for non-alcohol-related liver diseases (eg, biliary obstruction/injury, inflammatory bowel diseases, or gastrointestinal bleeding). Consult volume rebounded during the reopening phase to 101% of the same period in 2019, with the proportion of consults for alcohol-related GI and liver diseases remaining elevated by 78.7%. There was a particular increase noted in alcoholic hepatitis consults (127.2%). The number of inpatient endoscopic interventions among patients with alcohol-related GI and liver diseases was also significantly higher (34.6 versus 13.8%).
“In further analysis, we noted that during the lockdown phase, the majority of admission for alcohol-related GI and liver diseases clustered around weeks 5, 6 and 7 of lockdown,” Chung said in a statement. “This timeframe mirrors the length of time it takes for symptoms to appear for these diseases, suggesting the start of the pandemic may have had an impact on patients’ alcohol consumption.”