Open Access Research article

Hepatic and extra-hepatic sequelae, and prevalence of viral hepatitis C infection estimated from routine data in at-risk groups

Annunziata Faustini1*, Paola Colais1, Emanuele Fabrizi2, Anna Maria Bargagli1, Marina Davoli1, Domenico Di Lallo2, Anteo Di Napoli2, Patrizio Pezzotti2, Chiara Sorge1, Rita Grillo3, Carla Maresca4, Olga Recchia5, Carlo A Perucci1 and HCV laboratory surveillance Lazio-Region Group

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology, Regional Health System - Lazio Region, Via S. Costanza 53, 00198, Rome, Italy

2 Public Health Agency, Lazio Region, Italy

3 Institute of Microbiology, Medicine Faculty, Catholic University, Rome, Italy

4 Microbiology and Virology Laboratory, S.Filippo Hospital Agency, Rome, Italy

5 Microbiology and Virology Laboratory, S.Giovanni Hospital Agency, Rome, Italy

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:97  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-97

Published: 19 April 2010



Concerns about the hepatitis C virus (HCV) are due to the high risk of chronic liver disease and poor treatment efficacy. Synthesizing evidence from multiple data sources is becoming widely used to estimate HCV-infection prevalence. This paper aims to estimate the prevalence of HCV infection, and the hepatic and extrahepatic sequelae in at-risk groups, using routinely collected data in the Lazio region, Italy.


HCV laboratory surveillance and dialysis, hospital discharge, and drug-user registers were used as information sources to identify at-risk groups and to estimate HCV prevalence and sequelae.

Full name and birth date were used as linkage keys for the various health registries. Prevalence was estimated as the percentage of cases within the general population and the at-risk groups, with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) from 1997 to 2001. The risk of sequelae was estimated through a follow-up of hospital discharges up to December 31, 2004 and calculated as the prevalence ratio in HCV-positive and HCV-negative people, within each at-risk group, with 95% CI.


There were 65,127 HCV-infected people in the study period; the prevalence was 1.24% (95%CI = 1.23%-1.25%) in the whole population, higher in males and older adults. Drug users (35.1%; 95%CI = 34.6-35.7) and dialysis patients (21.1%; 95%CI = 20.2%-22.0%) showed the highest values. Medical procedures with little exposure to blood resulted in higher estimates, ranging between 1.3% and 3.4%, which was not conclusively attributable to the surgical procedures. Cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma and encephalopathy were the most frequent hepatic sequelae; cryoglobulinaemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma were the most frequent extrahepatic sequelae.


Synthesising data from multiple routine sources improved estimates of HCV prevalence and sequelae in dialysis patients and drug users, although prevalence validity should be assessed in survey and sequelae need a well-defined longitudinal approach.